Have you ever found yourself suddenly feeling the urge to hurry out of a party or gathering, freezing up during conversations or worrying excessively about pleasing others, rather than on thinking about what you might need or want for yourself?
Living with social anxiety manifests differently for everyone, but one thing is for certain, and that is that the distressful feelings that come with social situations are often hard to escape.
For some people, social anxiety comes in the form of discomfort or awkwardness in social, intimate, workplace, or family situations.
Other people who are struggling with social anxiety who worry excessively about pleasing their peers or about what others think, even to the tune of your own detriment and needs.
These are not just social concerns, it is a misfunctioning of the brain’s alarm system and the signals that it is sending your body in the face of “danger”, even when there is none.
There’s one very important first thing to understand about unhealthy anxiety. It LOVES to seep into other parts of your life and make you avoidant.
For example, say you have anxiety about social situations. Eventually, the anxiety gets you to “rationalize” that going out is a really bad idea. This can easily turn into isolating yourself from friends and family.
If you have a chronic illness that changes the way in which you see yourself, you may begin to avoid reaching out to the people who might be able to provide you with the support that you need because you worry that others will see you as weak.
Social Anxiety and The Cycle of Avoidance
Over time, this pattern of avoiding and worrying creates the Cycle of Avoidance, illustrated here:
As time goes on, the cycle becomes more and more ingrained in your mind and habits. Eventually, it becomes a “go-to” way of coping with distressful situations. You might be asking why it is easier to use avoidance to cope with anxiety-triggering circumstances. The reason is that “avoidance” provides a momentary (temporary) relief that is brought on by avoiding the fearful situation. “Phew, I avoided it, I’m safe now!”.
Let’s be clear – keeping your distance is not the only strategy that we use to cope with anxiety and depression. Avoidance wears many hats and understandably, people tend to use the hat that provides the quickest relief.
Many people avoid by telling themselves that something is not happening. This is called denial. People experiencing denial may then find themselves focusing on trying to control things that are actually beyond their control.
How Therapy for Social Anxiety Can Help
Psychotherapy, and particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can help you reframe social situations. It can help you learn some of the social skills you may have lost or missed out on. Seeking therapy for social anxiety can help you learn the skills you need to feel more connected, fulfilled, and valued. You deserve to live a full life, without avoidance, isolation, or lack of deep meaningful relationships. We want to help you get there.