Have you ever walked into a pub or restaurant and felt like you wanted to hide?
Maybe you just wanted to fade into the background…
You felt that all the eyes were focused on you like lasers searching for a target.
Your breathing speeds up.
You feel confused and you can’t think straight.
Thoughts whiz around your head. You question the venue, the time and even the day now.
Were they judging you when you walked in…staring at what you were wearing?
You feel terrified that your best friend won’t be in the pub or restaurant…where are they?
And then suddenly you catch a glimpse of your friend at the table.
You head over to them at speed.
Nothing else matters now as you focus on your friend.
You can’t look at anyone else now or you might start to blush or trip over and make a fool of yourself compounding those awful thoughts and feelings that you just experienced.
So, you have a great time with your friends and those first few minutes of walking into the pub or restaurant are forgotten.
Is this how social anxiety feels?
Yes, this could be called social anxiety or social phobia.
Yet I expect we have all felt like that at some time. We are all wary of new people and new places because we need to be on guard about any threats to our personal safety. It’s normal to have some apprehension when you are out of your usual comfort zone.
But for some people, these thoughts and feelings are more than just being shy or nervous although both shyness and feeling nervous are also uncomfortable at times.
You might start to worry about going out for weeks or months before a big event.
For instance, for some people, needles and vaccinations are now on their minds and causing them anxiety and worry. But for others like you, as the lockdown restrictions are eased the fear of meeting people is on the increase again.
Socialising is usually everywhere because as humans we need people and a sense of community, although now we know that it must be done at a distance. It’s hard enough thinking about COVID and the necessary steps we all need to take to protect ourselves but if you prefer to stick to a small circle of friends and family going back to work and socialising again feels scary.
Nevertheless, if these anxious thoughts and feeling are a regular occurrence in all types of social situations and are having an impact on your life and causing you to avoid situations it is worth getting some help.
Remember you are not alone. You could be suffering from a social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder is a medical term to explain your negative thoughts and feelings in social situations. It triggers fear and anxiety.
According to NICE
Estimates of lifetime prevalence vary but have been as high as 12%, compared with estimates for other anxiety disorders…
Did you know that although everyone can be affected by social anxiety women are affected more than men?
This means that any new social situation can be anxiety-provoking and it can affect everyone.
You know the problem, but what is the answer to overcome social anxiety?
- Get a check-up from your doctor as some medications and health issues can cause anxiety.
- Eat a well- balanced diet. Things like caffeine increase anxiety.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Stop smoking or taking recreational drugs.
- Ensure that you are having sufficient sleep.
- Exercise to get fit and increase wellbeing.
- Attend group sessions to learn social skills.
- Medication may be prescribed by your doctor.
- Learn to relax. Hypnotherapy and deep breathing will help.
- Talk to a professional who understands social anxiety.
- A counsellor/psychotherapist can listen and help you to let go of the unnecessary anxiety. Different therapists work in different ways so have a chat first to find out how they work.
- A Cognitive Behavioural Therapist (CBT) can help you to understand and change negative thoughts and feelings. CBT is currently considered the most effective treatment for social anxiety.
In conclusion, as we thankfully move away from the pandemic, next time you are meeting a friend in a pub or restaurant you will be looking forward to the event!
Contact Linda, from Awaken the Change for specialist help with anxiety.
Find professionally recorded relaxation audio recordings at Awaken the Change.