what is social anxiety disorder?

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

If you were not aware there are many different types of anxiety including generalised anxiety, OCD, PTSD, panic disorder, fears and phobias and what I want to discuss today, social anxiety disorder. So what is social anxiety disorder? Put simply it is a fear of being judged or embarrassing yourself in front of others. This can be mild, moderate or severe depending on each case and cause a considerable problem for anyone with the condition. The condition can sometimes be called social phobia.

Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

As with any anxiety, the experience of social anxiety creates feelings of fear, worry and sometimes panic. This anxiety prevents people from living their life to the full because the negative feelings stop them in their tracks. Here are just some of the problems that social anxiety creates:

  • Worry about being the centre of attention
  • Problems with authority figures
  • Dislike of social situations such as parties, social gatherings
  • Worries about being looked at in public situations
  • Fear of public speaking
  • Problems meeting new people
  • Having difficulty answering the phone
  • Blushing or sweating when put on the spot
  • Dislike of being observed or scrutinised

Experiencing any one of these situations creates problems and many people with social anxiety disorder will have to contend with a number of these fears or worries.

Any form of anxiety is scary and upsetting but being worried about dealing with other people creates a unique set of issues. Now the fear is not only that they may blush, sweat, stammer or look foolish but they will do this in front of someone who may look down on their responses. So the person with social anxiety will now start to try and avoid these situations where possible. Of course, the more you try and avoid something that makes you anxious the bigger the anxiety becomes.

Follow this fear to its logical conclusion and now the person with social anxiety disorder will avoid more and more places where they have to interact with others. This means they may have difficulty getting ahead at work, building meaningful relationships or doing everyday tasks others take for granted.

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Social Anxiety at Work

What is social anxiety disorder at work? A social phobia at work creates fears of public speaking, speaking about what is on your mind and avoidance of situations that might increase the fear. One of my clients had a panic attack when they were in a conference call even though there was nobody else in the room. Another deliberately avoided a talk he was supposed to give and called in sick.

Whilst it is possible to make excuses to cover an absence in the short term it is impossible to keep that up in the longer term. This is where therapy for anxiety becomes so important as it prevents the situation from becoming out of hand and can help to protect a job. Whilst many employers may be understanding many will be unimpressed with continued absences, sick days or dodging or responsibilities.

Of course, some people with social anxiety will have deliberately chosen job roles which means their contact with others is minimised. This will not help the problem as by never confronting their fear the anxiety issues will only get worse. My clients will often only seek out therapy when an event occurs in their life which means it is impossible for them to hide away any longer. For example, they may be at risk of losing their job.

Dating With Social Anxiety

What is Social Anxiety disorder when it comes to dating? A fear of social interaction and embarrassing yourself or getting laughed at is particularly strong when it comes to dating and relationships. As with building any new relationship, there is a certain amount of pressure and expectation anyway so when you add anxiety into the mix everything becomes more difficult.

People with social anxiety already believe they might do something foolish or embarrassing so the thought of going out on a date with someone magnifies this. For many, it feels like they are showing up at an interview with the harshest critic cross-examining them.

  • What if I do something wrong?
  • What if I say something stupid?
  • What if I am wearing the wrong clothes?
  • What if I disappoint them?
  • What if I stumble over my words when I talk?

The more a person over analyses the possibilities or imagines the worst-case scenarios the more likely it is that they will avoid dating altogether. As with all forms of anxiety when you avoid the situation the fear becomes bigger.

Remember therapy for social anxiety can help you to overcome these feelings and fears. My therapy concentrates on helping my clients understand where their unhelpful thought patterns come from and what they mean. When we understand what our anxious brain is up to it is easier to question it or undermine the negative thinking.

Social Anxiety and Depression

It is not surprising that many people who have social anxiety disorder also suffer from depression. In fact, all types of anxiety and depression often go hand in hand.

Think about how you would feel if every day you appeared to be battling an invisible enemy that told you that nearly everything you did could be a problem or scare you. It’s exhausting when anxiety makes you feel worried, embarrassed and upset. Your energy levels become drained from having this internal battle. After a period of time, it is only natural to feel upset, down on yourself or demotivated when you just can’t seem to make any headway.

Many of my clients are given anti-depressants to help by their doctor but the problem is that many of my clients aren’t clinically depressed in the traditional sense. They have anxiety and are simply feeling down because of years of battling themselves. Resolve the anxiety and their mood changes.

The key to making progress is by working safely with my social anxiety clients and their doctors to come to a resolution that changes the way they feel. If they need medical help then I make sure they get it but in many cases talking therapy works wonders because it addresses the real reasons behind a problem. Remember doctors do not have the time in a typical consultation to go into details with you which is why medication is often the first resort.

Social Anxiety VS Shyness

It is worth noting that shyness and social anxiety do differ although there can be a small overlap. Shyness is a normal personality trait that makes us cautious about approaching certain people or situations. It differs from social anxiety disorder because there are no negative or critical thought patterns behind it. Shyness is less likely to create:

  • Feelings of extreme fear or worry
  • Avoidance of situations
  • Lifestyle constraints

Social Phobia Therapy

How can social phobia therapy help you to make positive changes to the way that you feel? As with any anxiety my specialist programs work to address the underlying causes of my clients’ thoughts and feelings. Once these have been established then it is possible to help my clients to question their thought patterns and see the bigger picture.

Initially, all my clients see me for a four-session program. Session one usually starts with a client assessment so I can get a better idea of how much my client’s social phobia is impacting their life. I will ask questions about their stress levels, fears and phobias, sleep patterns, confidence levels and medical problems. This overview is a great starting point to identify the real problem areas.

During session one my clients are taught deep relaxation techniques which can help to lessen their anxiety levels. Hypnosis for social anxiety is a great way of helping my clients to switch off and assists in prepping them for their remaining sessions.

Everything in hypnosis is about how much a client can begin to zone out and tap into what is going on in the back of their minds. All my clients have the answers (not me) and my job is to facilitate the process of getting that information out into the open. When deep relaxation is practised every day after the first session it makes it much simpler to find out what the real problem is. In order to make that easier, my clients are given a recording to listen to daily to get them into this relaxed zone.

What is social anxiety disorder? Well, my clients will tell me. Their subsequent sessions in the program are spent exploring what is going on in the back of their minds. The relaxation download helps them to calm down their background anxiety but also readies my clients to recall memories and feelings that are causing them a problem.

Each person’s social anxiety will be slightly different. One may have the problem because they embarrassed themselves at school another’s maybe because they felt a failure when they got something wrong. That is the amazing thing about therapy each person’s problems are unique.

Find the unhelpful thought pattern and help my clients to see the bigger picture and it is like a light bulb going on in their mind. They can see the full problem for the first time but also start to question the way their mind has been working. Add into the mix some desensitisation therapy, CBT techniques and coaching and soon my clients are starting to break down the barriers that were preventing them from living life to the full. This work can be conducted using online therapy.

Online Therapy for Social Anxiety

Social anxiety disorder can be overcome with help and a willingness to talk through your problems with a therapist. It does not have to be a life sentence. The sooner you begin work on trying to help resolve the problem the quicker you can start to overcome the obstacles that have been holding you back. To find out what is social anxiety disorder in your particular circumstances then simply fill out the form below to arrange your program of sessions.

You can also use our self-help anxiety tracker printables to work out the triggers for your worries or fears. When you identify the problem areas you can then start to address the root causes of your problem. We have an 8-page anxiety document that can help which you can find in our online store.

anxiety tracker printables

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You might also want to read:

The Best Social Anxiety Books

Affirmations for Social Anxiety

Unbreakable Confidence. How to Get it.

How to Build Confidence at Work

Online Therapy for Anxiety. Why it Works.

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Martina McKeough
What is Social Anxiety Disorder
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What is Social Anxiety Disorder
Discover more about social anxiety disorder and how it can have an impact on your life.
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Rewire The Mind
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