Managing Anxiety in Social Situations

Managing Anxiety in Social Situations

If you find yourself avoiding social settings because you have an intense fear of being scrutinized or humiliated, you may have social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by a persistent worry that you will be negatively evaluated by others during a social interaction. Physical symptoms of the disorder include nausea, trembling, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and profuse sweating.

About 15 million adults suffer from social anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). Social anxiety disorder can have a negative effect on your personal relationships, ability to carry out normal daily activities and your level of satisfaction with your career. In order to improve your daily life, it is important to find ways to manage your anxiety in social situations.

How Do I Know if I Have Social Anxiety Disorder?

People with social anxiety disorder experience more than just the normal nervousness that comes from being in a room of strangers, having a job interview or speaking in front of people. Instead, the nervousness they experience is likely excessive for the situation they are confronted with. Someone with the disorder would turn down plans with a long-time friend because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves, or feel “sick with fear” when ordering food at a restaurant.

Social anxiety disorder usually appears during early adolescence, according to the ADAA. Nearly 40 percent of people with the disorder experience symptoms for at least 10 years before seeking help. No two people experience the disorder in the same way – one person may strictly be afraid of making phone calls while another will have an unreasonable fear of raising their hand in class. No matter how you experience the disorder, there are ways to manage it.

Learn Relaxation Techniques

A lot of anxiety is caused by an inability to relax. When your mind and body are tense, it becomes difficult to feel calm in a situation that you weren’t necessarily comfortable with in the first place. Learning some relaxation techniques can help minimize your anxiety.

Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, and can be done anywhere. Practice breathing deeply and slowly when you are somewhere you feel relaxed, and notice the difference in your stress level. If you take time to practice breathing before you are in an uncomfortable situation, it will be easier for you to use breathing to help you relax when you do feel unsettled.

Meditation can also help you manage anxiety. Meditation works to stop your mind from thinking about too many things at once. Find quiet time alone to relax your body and stop thinking about all of the things that cause you to be anxious. This can help you feel more centered and calm.

Make Lifestyle Changes

Changes in your habits can help lessen your social anxiety. Cutting out things like caffeine, alcohol and smoking is beneficial because all three can actually increase your anxiety levels. You may think a drink or two will make you more relaxed in a social setting, but it actually has the opposite effect. Getting enough sleep is also beneficial since exhaustion can lead to more anxiety. A well-balanced diet and exercise will also help you feel calmer.

Talk It Out

Talking about what causes you anxiety may be key to helping you manage your disorder. Once you can pinpoint what situations cause you anxiety, it may be easier for you to find ways to better handle your anxiety in those situations. Talking about your anxiety with someone else, either a friend, family member or professional, may also help you get a new perspective on things.

Talk therapy with a professional is a method used by many people with social anxiety disorder to manage their symptoms. Many professionals will treat social anxiety disorder with cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches you both how to deal with unrealistic thoughts and how to cope in difficult situations. This type of therapy can help you replace your irrational fears with more realistic views of situations. When selecting a therapist, try and select one who is trained to help people manage anxiety, or who has experience treating social anxiety disorder.

Face Your Fears

One of the best ways to get over your irrational fears is to face them. That is not the easiest thing to do, but facing head on what causes you anxiety may help minimize your reaction when situations catch you off guard. If you decide to do this, start small and ease into those situations that cause you the most anxiety. If it is large gatherings that trigger your social anxiety disorder, start by hanging out with a small group of people and build up to a larger gathering. Just be sure not to go any further than you feel comfortable with so that you don’t cause an unnecessary anxiety attack.

Regulate with Medication

Medication may be necessary to regulate your social anxiety disorder. Most adults with the disorder have used or currently use prescription medication to treat it, according to the ADAA. Medications such as Zoloft or Xanax can decrease the symptoms associated with anxiety so that it doesn’t affect your everyday existence.

Get Involved with a Program

Managing your anxiety in social situations may not be an easy thing to do on your own, and may require you to seek guidance through a specialized anxiety program. At Sierra Tucson, which has a program to treat anxiety, you will receive individualized treatment to address those situations that cause you the most anxiety. Attending Sierra Tucson’s program gives you access to medication, cognitive-behavioral therapies, educational lectures and relaxation treatments. Attending a specialized program can give you the structure and guidance you need to successfully manage your anxiety.

Living with anxiety may require you to use many of the methods above, or find the one that works best for you. Whichever method you choose, managing your social anxiety disorder is possible.