How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Start Living
Lots of people live with social anxiety but not everyone is dealing with social anxiety disorder. I know you might be confused about whether what you have is a diagnosable illness, so I’ve put together a bit of a flight plan to help you navigate the waters related to diagnosis, treatment, self-help, natural supplements, and coping strategies.
Understand Social Anxiety
Dealing with social anxiety disorder takes courage. This disorder is a recognized mental illness that afflicts between 3 and 13% of the population.
People who live with social anxiety disorder have intense fear about social and performance situations in which there is the potential to be judged or evaluated.
People with social anxiety disorder fear being embarrassed or humiliated in these situations, either because they have done something foolish, or because others have noticed their anxiety.
Obtain a Diagnosis
If you believe that you may be living with the symptoms of social anxiety disorder, the first step is to obtain a proper diagnosis from a medical professional who has experience dealing with this type of problem.
If you aren’t sure where to start, making an appointment with your family doctor is a good first step. If you are too afraid even to pick up the phone and make an appointment, see if someone that you trust can do it for you, such as a friend or family member.
Explore Treatment Options
Once you have been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, there are a number of options in terms of getting better.
Usually, you will receive treatment either in the form of talk therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Research shows that a combination of these two forms of treatment is most effective in treating social anxiety disorder.
Explore Self-Help Options
In addition to formal professional treatment that you receive, you may consider self-help or alternative forms of help that you can manage on your own.
Although these methods are not a substitute for formal therapy and medication, often having coping strategies of your own to rely on can make dealing with social anxiety disorder easier.
A good set of coping strategies that you may want to investigate are relaxation techniques. These include such things as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and autogenic training.
Practicing relaxation techniques while you are alone will enable you to stay calm and focused during stressful social and performance situations.
For example, in progressive muscle relaxation, you spend time learning how to relax each muscle in your body. When paired with imagery about anxiety-provoking situations, you will find that your anxiety in those real-life situations diminishes.
Explore Natural Supplements
Another alternative approach is to investigate natural supplements for anxiety. Although no substitute for anxiety medication, there are a number of herbal supplements that have been used in the self-treatment of anxiety such as St. John’s Wort, valerian root, and kava kava.
If you decide to go this route, be sure to do your reading. Although these are considered herbal supplements, they still carry with them the risk of side effects.
Developing Coping Techniques
In addition to dealing with social anxiety disorder’s immediate effects, you will want to learn how to cope with your social anxiety on a daily basis. Not everyone who suffers with social anxiety disorder also has social skills problems, but it is possible that you could use some help learning how to handle various social tasks such as asking for a date, being assertive, or meeting a stranger. Improving your social skills will go a long way toward improving your social anxiety disorder.
In summary, if you believe that you may be dealing with social anxiety disorder, the first step is to obtain a diagnosis. Once you have been diagnosed, you should receive some type of formal treatment such as CBT or medication.
In addition, there are steps that you can take on your own, such as learning progressive muscle relaxation, to improve your ability to cope in stressful situations. Remember, others have overcome this disorder and you can too. I believe you can do this, you just need to take some first steps in the right direction!
What is your experience with social anxiety? Feel free to leave a comment below sharing your story.