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.
Or if you are like some others, struggling with social anxiety means living every day with excessive worry about pleasing their peers or about what others think, even if it is to the detriment of your own needs.
These are not just social concerns, in biological terms, 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 no real danger there.
There’s one very important thing to understand about unhealthy or unmanaged anxiety- it LOVES to make you “avoid” and very easily seeps into other parts of your life.
For example, say you have anxiety about going out to dinner with a group. The thoughts usually come first (“What if I don’t know what to say? What if I sit next to someone I don’t know? What will people think of me?”).
Eventually, this unhealthy form of anxiety gets you to “rationalize” that going out is a really bad idea. When this happens often enough, you may begin to consistently isolate yourself from friends and family.
What’s so bad about avoiding uncomfortable situations?
Here’s the deal. Over time, this pattern of avoiding and worrying creates a Cycle of Avoidance that becomes a difficult loop to get out of. As time goes on, the cycle becomes more and more ingrained in your mind and habits.
Eventually, avoidance becomes your “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, a way of coping referred to as denial. People experiencing denial may then find themselves focusing on trying to control things that are actually beyond their control.
When you are in denial, you are also denying yourself the opportunity to learn that you can cope and get through uncomfortable feelings and situations.
How Therapy for Social Anxiety Can Help
Psychotherapy, and particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can help you reframe social situations. Through therapy, you can:
- Learn some of the social skills you may have lost or missed out on in earlier years
- Increase your Emotional Intelligence and learn to pick up on social cues
- Learn to identify, read and trust your body’s signals
- Retrain your brain’s alarm system to understand the difference between real danger and perceived danger
- How to not always believe what you think
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.