Learn to manage your Social Anxiety...

In North America, social anxiety is usually defined as the fear of being watched and judged by others. When socially anxious, people fear humiliation and embarrassment. However, a more positive definition of social anxiety comes from the late Shoma Morita, a Japanese psychiatrist, who stated that social anxiety is a reflection of a person’s desire to do well. What a liberating definition! In this case, social anxiety can become a motivator, a facilitator. It can motivate you, for example, to prepare for a presentation, a job interview, or any task that needs doing and occurs in a social setting.

Typical social situations that trigger social anxiety:

  • meeting people
  • meeting someone attractive
  • talking to authority figures
  • talking on the telephone
  • being the centre of attention in a group
  • doing presentations
  • performing tasks in front of others
  • using public washrooms
  • writing tests

 

Symptoms of Social Anxiety

  • Rapid heart beat, difficulty breathing, sweatiness, indigestion, blushing, feeling hot or cold, tension in muscles, tension in face, shakiness, needing to urinate, feeling numb or frozen.
  • Imagining the previously mentioned symptoms, imagining the worst, negative self talk, negative predictions about how things will turn out, “I can’t do this, I’ll look like a loser, nobody will like me.” Focusing on self instead of on other. “How am I coming across, what do they think of me?” Mind going blank.
  • a) Safety seeking behaviours: going out with same old friend, going only to familiar places, agreeing with the majority even if you really disagree, hiding behind bangs or non-descript clothing
    b) Avoidance: not taking initiative, avoiding the social situation altogether, procrastinating, avoiding eye contact
    c) Nervous gestures: talking too quietly, quickly, loudly, fidgeting, mumbling, stuttering, closed body posture

 

The different levels of Social Anxiety

Normal Social Anxiety: Most people will experience social anxiety at some time in their lives. This is normal. They’ll experience social anxiety in certain unfamiliar social situations, but once they get involved, their anxiety evaporates.

Mild-Moderate Social Anxiety: Sometimes social anxiety interferes with life. Although confident in most areas, for instance, you might feel anxious when it comes to dancing and although you’ve often dreamt about taking dancing lessons, you feel anxious about how you’d look to others. As a result, you don’t even try the free lessons offered by the local Latino restaurant.

Moderate-Extreme Social Anxiety: About 13% percent of the population experience social anxiety to such an extent that they either have a habit of either avoiding social situations or enduring them with intense inner discomfort.

Extreme Social Anxiety: About 3% percent of the population are so afraid of rejection that they avoid people and situations as much as possible. They want to minimize not only the risk of rejection but also the risk of experiencing anxiety in the first place. At this end of the continuum, life becomes very restricted.