HARD ROAD Social anxiety sufferers think about the impression they make a lot, and nearly always compare themselves negatively to others
Do you ever commit to going to an event but then hate the thought of going? Do you find yourself in situations where you are overwhelmed by an inability to find something to say? Do you break out in a sweat when you think back on what you said or did and inwardly cringe at the bad impression you think you made? If so, you may be experiencing social anxiety.
Social anxiety is a version of anxiety and is becoming much more well-known, especially among young people that I am talking to. Social Anxiety Ireland (socialanxietyireland.com) defines it as ‘the persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which one is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others, and where exposure to such situations provokes intense anxiety’.
Social anxiety is triggered by feeling anxious around other people or even by just thinking about being around other people. We all think about making a good impression at one time or another, but for someone with social anxiety they will think about this a lot of the time and nearly always compare themselves negatively to others. They will often sit at home or lie awake at night going over and over a conversation or an event, thinking about all the different things that were said or could have been said differently.
Social anxiety is similar to shyness and self-consciousness. It is also linked to shame and embarrassment and these feelings are so strong in someone with social anxiety that they will often avoid situations or places where these types of feelings are triggered. A person’s self –esteem is affected and they can become caught up in a negative cycle that has the potential to become gradually worse if not addressed.
People with social anxiety experience many of the symptoms of general anxiety, including increased heart rate, nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, blushing, sweating, shaking and breathlessness. Many people with social anxiety also feel ashamed and embarrassed that they are experiencing it and have a strong desire to ‘get over it’.
Trigger situations are different for different people. Some of the common triggers that sufferers find difficult are nights out; talking on the phone; going to the supermarket or shop; going to school, college or the workplace; ordering food or drink; having someone turn up unexpectedly at their home; going to a new environment where there are new people; and going anywhere alone.
Is there help for social anxiety? The short answer is yes, there is. However, the reality is that it can take time to become comfortable in situations that once induced stress and social anxiety. But with support and guidance from a professional and work on the part of the person, social anxiety symptoms can be lessened significantly.
Jannah Walshe will address the subject of social anxiety in an upcoming assertiveness course in The Family Centre, Castlebar, which can be contacted at 094 9025900.
Jannah Walshe is a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Castlebar and Westport. A fully accredited member of The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she can be contacted via www.jannahwalshe.ie, or at firstname.lastname@example.org or 085 1372528.