According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in thirteen people globally suffers from anxiety, making it the most common mental disorder worldwide. In this article, we’ll talk about social anxiety or social phobia — an intense, persistent fear of being watched or judged by others, as well as tips on how to manage anxiety levels.
Here are the defining characteristics of social anxiety:
- Intense, persistent fear of social interactions in a wide range of contexts.
- Poor verbal communication skills. The situation is usually complicated by a person’s inability to think clearly while experiencing anxiety.
- Lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem, which are reinforced by self-criticism.
- Critical self-evaluations of conversations or spoken presentations.
- Anticipatory anxiety, when you avoid opportunities for conversation or public speaking.
Social anxiety causes may have different nature. In some cases, it’s genetic, while in others — influenced by the environment.
People with parents who’ve suffered or suffer from social anxiety disorder have a 30-40 % greater likelihood of developing this condition themselves. According to the research, the changes in the gene called SLCGA4 cause the formation of social anxiety. The gene is involved in the transportation of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical that helps to soothe nerves and stabilise mood.
Social anxiety is linked to both excesses and shortages of serotonin. People with social anxiety have difficulty in producing the hormone consistently and without fluctuation.
Here are some of the exposures known to have predictive value for severe social anxiety:
- Sexual, physical and emotional abuse;
- Teasing and bullying by peers;
- Maternal stress during pregnancy or infancy;
- Divorce, family conflicts and domestic violence.
People with social anxiety don’t experience their symptoms in every social situation.
When they have interactions with people they can trust or know well, for example, partners, parents, children, or close friends, there may be no signs of social anxiety whatsoever. Also, if people with social anxiety asked to speak in public about subjects where they have expertise, they may be able to do so with confidence.
Other situations may evoke anxiety and distress, even though they wouldn’t seem threatening to most other people. Here are common triggers for social anxiety:
- Meeting new people;
- Conversations with extroverts;
- Interactions with authority figures;
- Parties and large family gatherings;
- Unexpected conversations with strangers (for example, standing in line at the bank or grocery store);
- Being watched when performing a new or unfamiliar task;
- Public speaking;
- Speaking on the phone, especially with strangers.
People with social anxiety will have a couple of situations that will cause overwhelmingly anxious reactions, and they’ll go to great lengths to avoid them. Other situations may produce more moderate anxiety symptoms, but they still prevent people from living a normal life.
Try to reframe your understanding of the stress you’re experiencing. We all think stress is bad for your health and don’t understand how your body responds to stressors like public speaking. You should understand that pumping more blood to our major muscle groups and delivering more oxygen to our brain is just natural, yet false, alarms. It can help make people feel more at ease when they face something that usually makes them anxious.
Sound, sight, smell, touch and taste – all your five senses can help you calm down when you are feeling anxious. Some people may find it helpful to look at a favourite photo, while for others, a particular scent can do the trick. Therefore, the next time you start to worry about a social situation, try chewing a flavourful piece of gum, snuggling with your pet or simply listening to some uplifting tunes.
Since our minds and bodies are inseparably connected, the way you treat your body can have a significant impact on the anxiety levels, your ability to cope with its symptoms and your general self-confidence.
Even though lifestyle changes alone are not enough to address social anxiety disorder or social phobia, they can help reduce overall levels of anxiety and set the stage for successful treatment. These include prioritising regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, avoiding or limiting caffeine and caffeinated drinks, drinking only in moderation and quitting smoking.
Nowadays, CBD infused products are becoming a popular option in case of stress, anxiety or even depression. Due to its interaction with various receptors of the biological endocannabinoid system of the body, taking CBD oil for anxiety can help to ease worry, improve your mood and promote better general wellness.
Also, you can even choose a preferred method of intake to receive your daily dose of CBD and relieve your anxiety levels. You can vape by adding CBD vape juice to your vaping device or purchase pre-filled options like disposable or refillable CBD vape pens, take CBD oil sublingually or eat tasty yet beneficial edibles like CBD gummies or chocolate.
Mindfulness can be an effective solution for managing a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, stress, depression and social phobia. Being mindful is all about being fully present and engaged at the moment and paying attention to your surroundings, feelings and thoughts in a non-judgmental and positive way.
Many people with social anxiety are afraid of making mistakes and/or being judged by others, so they overthink their every move and make assumptions about how others perceive it. By practising mindfulness, you literally train your brain to be less in your head and more present at this very moment.
If you find that social anxiety is actually affecting your day-to-day life, such as interfering with your career/relationships or making it difficult to attend social events, consider seeking help. This can be done through an evidence-based solution like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is a talking therapy intended to help identify and change disturbing or destructive thought patterns that have a negative impact on behaviour and emotions.