What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is a phobia that causes a persistent and debilitating fear of people. But social anxiety doesn’t stop there. It can be largely anticipatory, and it’s very common for those suffering from the disorder to experience severe anxiousness for weeks leading up to a social event. While anxiety before public speaking is common, the degree to which social anxiety impairs a person is to a far greater extent than that experienced by a non-sufferer.
In this hyper-social world, having something like social anxiety is extremely impairing. Relationships, career trajectories, recreational activities, all of these things are much more difficult for someone currently under the uncertain cloud of social phobia.
The primary symptom of social anxiety is an ongoing fear of social situations. The symptoms arising from this disorder can be mental or physical in nature. Mental aspects of the disorder essentially amount to persistent anxiety over a variety of social contexts, such as public speaking, group activities, dating, etc. One common myth is that after enough exposure to social situations the anxiety will remit. This is usually not the case, especially if the underlying self-esteem issues go untreated.
Social anxiety isn’t just a cluster of mental symptoms. Physical symptoms are usually present too, such as sweating and light-headedness, or nausea. Not only are these physical aspects impairing in themselves, but someone with social anxiety might develop a higher level of avoidance due to fear of the physical symptoms. Who wants to experience a racing heart right before they give a speech?
How counseling can help
Treating anxiety disorders with talk therapy has proven to be highly effective. A treatment method known as cognitive-behavioral therapy is widely used. CBT is a group of cognitive exercises that the patient can use to undo the negative and harmful associations that have been fueling the anxiety. What is the therapist’s role? A trained therapist is able to help the patient utilize these exercises for maximum benefit, and to gently steer the patient away from creeping negative or anxious thoughts. Since positive change takes time and multiple approaches, a well-trained therapist is just what the doctor ordered.
If you are suffering from social anxiety disorder, please contact us.