Have you ever been nervous heading in for your first day of work or before a party? If so, you’re certainly not alone.
You’re also not alone if you’re one of the 15 million American adults who have social anxiety.
While it may be normal to have the occasional butterfly in your stomach before certain social situations, it’s a disorder if it happens all the time and limits your ability to live a full life or function around others.
Social anxiety can be debilitating and interfere with simple, day-to-day activities like going to work, attending social gatherings, or even heading out to the store for errands. It is an intense fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.
A fear of coming off as dumb or awkward can intensify anxious feelings and lead to avoiding social situations altogether.
Avoiding social situations can easily lead to missed opportunities, experiences, or relationships, poor performance at work, poor social skills, low self-esteem, social isolation, depression, or worse.
The symptoms of social anxiety include:
• Persistent, intense fear or anxiety about specific social situations because you believe you’ll be negatively judged, embarrassed, or humiliated
• Avoidance of anxiety-producing social situations or enduring them with intense fear or anxiety
• Excessive anxiety that is disproportionate to the situation
• Anxiety or distress that interferes with daily living
• Physical symptoms like racing heart, sweating, trembling, twitching, and dry mouth can also appear
Social anxiety, however, is a treatable condition. Psychotherapy – talk therapy – with a psychologist can help. Cognitive behavioral therapy also appears to have a high adherence and success rate.
Exposure therapy is another form of treatment. With it, a patient is exposed to one or more anxiety-producing social situations in a controlled environment. The goal is to teach coping strategies instead of avoidance.
If you feel overly anxious anytime you have to go out, and it’s limiting your lifestyle, speak to a doctor about treatment options.