How to identify Social Anxiety and overcome it

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If you feel tongue-tied in meetings, find yourself breaking into a sweat at the thought of interacting with your new colleague, or even have difficulties striking up a simple conversation with a stranger, you may have social anxiety. And you are not alone.    

What is Social Anxiety or social phobia?

Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the most common mental disorders, with more than 200 million people worldwide suffering from it. While its close cousins like Depression and Anxiety were written about in Mesopotamia as early as the second millennium B.C.E., Social Anxiety is a relative newbie, infiltrating psychology literature only about 36 years ago. In    
1985 Psychiatrist Michael Liebowitz and Clinical Psychologist Richard Heimberg initiated action to study social phobia, which was hitherto considered the ‘neglected anxiety disorder’ due to lack of substantial research. In 1987, after much study and revision, ‘generalised social phobia’ was incorporated in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) III. But it was in 1995, with the introduction of DSM-IV, that the present-day understanding of Social Anxiety Disorder came into being, replacing social phobia.

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Social Anxiety Disorder Causes and Symptoms

Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety Disorder causes extreme anxiety and fear in social settings. It can be both debilitating and, in some cases, chronic. People with this disorder will find it extremely difficult to talk to strangers, initiate seemingly simple day-to-day dialogues with shopkeepers and the help, among others. They may find social gatherings extremely scary and fear being judged and mocked. Social Anxiety is very different from shyness, and the two shouldn’t be confused. Shyness is short term, probably without severe underlying issues, and can be solved swiftly. Social Anxiety can be chronic, caused by underlying factors, including brain structure like an overactive amygdala that may cause a heightened fear response, leading to increased anxiety in social situations.

It is also interesting to note that in recent years Social Anxiety has been on the rise. A study conducted on 6,825 individuals from seven countries found that the global prevalence of Social Anxiety was significantly higher than previously reported, with more than 1 in 3 (36%) respondents meeting the threshold criteria for having Social Anxiety Disorder. Are brain chemistry, genetic disposition, and environmental factors – all well-researched- enough causes for Social Anxiety or are there more? Have diminishing family structures, and the deep integration of technology that has ironically led to a widespread disconnect in real-life relationships contributed to Social Anxiety?    

Do You Have Social Anxiety Disorder? Here Are 7 Common Symptoms

Social anxiety disorder symptoms can be hard to identify, and it’s often mistaken for other anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or panic disorder, especially since the condition shares many of the same symptoms.

Learning how to spot social anxiety symptoms can help you take charge of your health and get the treatment that you need if you're experiencing them regularly. Here are seven of the most commonly social anxiety disorder symptoms that you should watch out for.

1) Intense fear of social situations    
Many people experience an intense fear of social situations. This can include any situation where they would be judged by others, such as a job interview or meeting new people. These fears can keep them from attending important events and may even impact their relationships with family members and friends. They might also have anxiety when they have to Interact with people in public places, like grocery stores or restaurants.

Other symptoms of a social anxiety disorder include blushing, sweating, shaking hands, stuttering or stumbling over words when speaking in front of groups, trying to avoid interacting with other people because it's too nerve-wracking for them, and feeling self-conscious about their appearance.    

2) Avoiding social situations    
It's not uncommon to want to avoid social situations, but if you find yourself unable to go out with friends or family members, it may be a sign of something more serious. If you have a social anxiety disorder, this avoidance behavior can start to affect your work and your personal life. It can also lead to isolation and depression. But don't worry!    
There are ways you can treat social anxiety disorder successfully. One treatment option is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches patients new skills that they can use in real-world settings. CBT also aims to change the way people think about themselves and their anxieties. It might seem like a lot of effort, but the results are well worth it!    

3) Sweating, racing heart, shaking, and blushing in social situations    
Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder in which you experience intense fear and discomfort in social situations. These fears can be triggered by interactions with people, or even by the anticipation of being judged by others.    
If you have a social anxiety disorder, you might experience any number of these symptoms: 

sweaty hands, racing heart, shaking voice, or uncontrollable blushing. Sometimes, this social anxiety disorder manifests as avoidance; for instance, someone may not seek out jobs that require them to speak to people at all. The cause of social anxiety disorder varies from person to person. Some people may have grown up in families where they were harshly criticized or humiliated for mistakes; if this happened often enough over time, it could lead someone to avoid interaction with others altogether as an adult.    
Others may feel inadequate when interacting socially because they think their personality is dull. Some experts believe that some cases of panic attacks are manifestations of severe cases of social anxiety disorder - though many sufferers don't report experiencing such severe panic attacks as those who suffer from panic disorders specifically.

4) Fear of being judged or evaluated negatively    
It is natural to feel a little uneasy about social situations, but for people with a social anxiety disorder (SAD), the feeling of unease becomes overwhelming and consumes their thoughts. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that SAD affects between 3.1 million and 6.2 million adults in the United States. The good news is that many people improve after    
treatment, and most find relief from symptoms within three months. Read on for seven common symptoms of SAD    

5) Nausea or stomach upset in social situations    
Nausea or stomach upset in social situations is one of the most common symptoms of social anxiety disorder. This might include feeling sick to your stomach, having an upset stomach, or feeling like you're about to vomit.    
It may not be as easy for some people to share their thoughts and ideas in a group setting because they worry that others will judge them. They may worry that other people will be critical of what they have to say and they might feel more pressured to make a good impression on others.    
 Some people with a social anxiety disorder may feel very uncomfortable when they're around other people and they may experience physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, blushing, or a racing heart rate.    

6) Feeling dizzy or lightheaded in social situations    
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded in social situations. Some people with anxiety may experience a drop in blood pressure or the sensation of feeling faint when faced with stressful situations such as speaking to a group of people.    
This sensation is often accompanied by increased heart rate and breathing rates, which are typically signs that the body is in a fight-or-flight response mode.    

7) Feeling like you might pass out in social situations    
What is a social anxiety disorder, and how does it show up in day-to-day life? One of the most common symptoms of this disorder is feeling like you might pass out or vomit in social situations. This can be a very scary experience for someone who is suffering from this condition, so they may avoid going to events where they know it will happen.    
They might also find themselves avoiding any situation where they'll have to speak to other people, such as parties or meetings.    

5 causes of social anxiety disorder that you may not know about



Social anxiety disorder can make everyday life feel impossible at times, but the good news is that there are multiple different causes of social anxiety disorder, and they’re easier to deal with than you might expect.    
In this article, we’ll take a look at five common social phobia causes that you might not have considered before, as well as how to address each problem to reduce or eliminate your social anxiety i.e. how to overcome social anxiety. By learning about the underlying cause of social anxiety disorder and taking proactive measures to change them, you’ll feel better    
sooner than you think!    

1) Fear of judgment    
One of the most common reasons for developing social anxiety is fear of judgment. When people feel judged, they often experience fear and embarrassment. Sometimes this fear is irrational and people are worried about what others will think even if they don't have a reason to be.

People with social anxiety also often worry about saying something stupid, embarrassing themselves, or looking bad in front of others. This can lead to avoiding certain situations or interactions with other people altogether so they don't have to face their fears.    
The more someone avoids these types of interactions, the more likely they are to develop a phobia because it becomes increasingly difficult to face the fear when it's constantly present.    

2) Perfectionism    
Possibly the most well-known cause of social anxiety, perfectionism is a response to fear. Perfectionists believe that if they are perfect, they will be loved and accepted. These expectations are unrealistic and can lead to feelings of shame or embarrassment when perfectionists fail at the impossible task of being perfect all the time.    
People who suffer from this kind of social anxiety often have high standards for themselves in every aspect of their lives, from their relationships to their work. They also tend to worry excessively about what others think and feel, which can make it difficult for them to enjoy life.    

3) Fear of humiliation    
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, and uneasiness. It can also be a general feeling of tension or stress. Anxiety can be triggered by many things, such as becoming a victim of an attack or witnessing one person harming another.    
If you are experiencing panic attacks for no apparent reason and/or feel constantly on edge or nervous for no reason at all, then it could be due to social anxiety disorder. People who have this condition often have a fear of humiliation in everyday life situations such as public speaking, dating, and meeting new people. The fear becomes so intense that the person avoids these situations altogether to keep from being embarrassed or judged.    

4) Being shy    
Some people are naturally shy and some people aren't. But when the feeling of being shy starts to interfere with your daily life, it might be a sign that you need help. There are many reasons for feeling shy, and it's important to figure out what is causing your feelings so you can start to feel better.    
5 things cause social anxiety disorder which includes: genetics, upbringing, personality traits, environment, and culture. It's important to understand your triggers so you can better handle them or work on building up the skills needed to manage them in the future.    

5) Having low self-esteem    
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a person's level of self- esteem is one of the strongest predictors of developing social anxiety. Low self-esteem is caused by being unable to live up to unrealistic expectations.    
For example, if someone has low self-esteem because they are overweight and they feel like all other people are skinny, then they will tend to compare themselves with others to feel better about themselves.    
This comparison makes it difficult for them to have a conversation with someone else or participate in group activities. They feel inadequate in these situations because their mind is elsewhere and cannot concentrate on what's going on around them. The more they compare themselves with others, the less satisfied they are with their own lives which increases their feeling of inadequacy.    

Watch the video here:


In the latest edition of Conversations with Rakesh, SoME Founder Rakesh Godhwani explores this culmination of Social Anxiety causing factors, the impact of Social Anxiety on our communication skills, and how it can lead to an uncomfortable work experience.    

Here are Steps to Identifying Social Anxiety    

Identifying Social Anxiety

I was asked this question that I thought is hugely relevant in today’s world, “Sir, I am uncomfortable going into a meeting when members from other teams that I don’t know about are present. I have no problem communicating with my teammates, whom I regularly meet and know. But in these meetings, I feel uncomfortable and don’t speak and miss out    
on discussions even when I have something to say. What do I do?”    
 This is such a relevant question and extremely pertinent. This new phenomenon of being too tongue-tied in front of others has taken root because of how we live today, and it has a name, Social Anxiety. We are very uncomfortable meeting people these days.    
Also Read: Strong Accent Does Not Mean Bad Communication Skills   

I will give you a perspective. About fifty years ago, the world was very different. Our parents belonged to a generation that had minimal access to technology, maybe just television and radio. The only form of entertainment was interacting with each other, becoming a cohesive unit, and creating a vibrant social life.   

They were very comfortable in large groups and networking with people they didn’t know. But, in the last 25 or so years, families have become nuclear and smaller. Children today meet only a handful of people, including their parents and a few friends. The things they enjoy most these days are a gadget and perks of technology.


The role of technology to understand social anxiety

If I give my father or someone from the older generation a gadget, they will find the object very intimidating. I have seen this in my family with my father, uncles and aunts. They sometimes even shake while using a gadget, overwhelmed by its multiple functions. But my kids, the ease with which they use technology shows they were born to play with it. On the    
flip side, they are incredibly uncomfortable talking to strangers or in a social setting. This is Social Anxiety, and it has become so prevalent in recent times that it has been given the status of a disorder.

It is also a significant cause of loneliness and Depression. It requires you to seek help, and it is important to understand that the disorder is not your fault. You are comfortable on social media but not in a room full of people because you feel they are judging you, staring at you, and finding flaws in you, and these thoughts attack your brain. You don’t like being rejected.    
Also Read: What is Glossophobia and how can you overcome it

You envision you will say something, and they will laugh at it. So you decide to keep quiet, and very soon, you start feeling worthless, which adversely impacts your self-esteem. On the other hand, the Internet provides you with the power of anonymity, and you can get away with almost anything you say. That is why it is easier to interact online than off it.    

Nothing to fear about social anxiety

I went to a boys school as a kid, so I was always quite uncomfortable talking to girls. When I went to college, my senior asked me to speak to a group of girls one day. I felt like digging a pit and burying myself in it. I was extremely uncomfortable at the prospect of talking to them but reluctantly went to do so. I mumbled something, and they started giggling, and I felt like I made an utter fool of myself.   

For the next few days, I was so upset! But then I slowly started to realise I was not alone and started seeking help. My supportive friends told me I would not be eaten up if I speak in a group and that I should try and initiate conversations with everyone. People will judge, that’s human nature, but that shouldn’t stop us from making our point.    
I learnt from that situation and started behaving normally with everyone. And, soon enough, I became more comfortable and would speak in groups comprising both girls and boys.

Need to collaborate with right person

If you continue to feel scared of talking to someone because you think they will judge you, it will lead to a tremendous amount of anxiety, which will lead to a variety of problems, like the inability to collaborate. That is a severe issue because, in the 21st century, you have to collaborate with people worldwide, whether, through Zoom, Google meet, or physically.    
This ability to meet people, talking and expressing yourself is critical for you.    

There are two sides to this spectrum

In Anand, Rajesh Khanna’s convivial character could make friends with anyone. His charisma won everyone over, and he had no qualms initiating conversations with strangers. In short, he had zero Social Anxiety. I am not like that, and I know many are not either. Some of us are so isolated and afraid that our Social Anxiety is 100 out of 100. Leaving our rooms to go to even shopping malls is a herculean task as we don’t want to interact with shopkeepers or waiters. We start trembling at the thought of these interactions.    
To do well in schools, universities, or the corporate world, we have to slowly reduce our Social Anxiety from 100 to 40 to as low as possible.    

5 Types of Social Anxiety and How You Can Cope With Them

Whether we like to admit it or not, social anxiety affects most people at some point in their lives. Social anxiety can cause your thoughts to spiral out of control, leading to feelings of intense discomfort when you’re faced with certain situations. Then how to get over social anxiety? The good news is that there are several different types of social anxiety, and each one responds to different treatments and lifestyle changes.    
 Learning what type of social anxiety, you have can help you overcome shyness and social anxiety the best ways to cope with your condition and improve your quality of life. These are 5 types of social anxiety:    

1) Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common type of anxiety. It occurs when you have a chronic level of worry, even when nothing is happening to trigger it. People with generalized anxiety disorder often feel stressed about things that are going to happen in the future, but they also worry about things that have already happened. They may also believe that something bad will happen to them at any moment. Generalized anxiety disorder can be treated with medication and therapy.


2) Specific phobias

Social anxiety is a mental condition that can lead to avoidance of social situations. Social anxiety and social phobia can also include feelings of inadequacy, fear of being judged, or fear of offending someone. While there's no cure for social anxiety, there are ways to how deal with social anxiety.    
1. Public speaking: One way to manage your anxiety is by practicing your speech in front of a mirror until you're comfortable enough with it to give the presentation in public.    
2. Interacting with people: When interacting with other people, try to focus on what they're saying instead of how you feel about it or how you think they'll respond. This will help take your focus off yourself and onto them.    
3. Comparing yourself: Try not to compare yourself to others.


3) Panic disorder

Panic disorder is the most common type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of intense fear, terror, or impending doom that may include shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, sweating, tingling sensations in the skin, hot flashes, or chills.    
Panic attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. Some people have only one attack; others have more than one. Panic disorder sufferers often worry about when the next attack will happen and what will trigger it. They may avoid certain places or situations they think might cause an attack to happen again.


4) Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a form of social anxiety that manifests as a fear of open spaces, which can make it difficult to leave your home. People who suffer from agoraphobia often have an intense fear that they will be unable to escape their current location should they need to do so.

For example, if you have agoraphobia, you might not be able to go outside because you're afraid you won't be able to get back inside your house if someone needs to leave or something happens. Agoraphobia is closely related to panic disorder and other anxiety disorders.

 5) Social anxiety disorder

What is social anxiety? Social anxiety disorder is a fear that other people will judge or embarrass you. It can cause a lot of distress and make it difficult to go to school, work, or social events.    
A person with a social anxiety disorder may become very anxious when they have to do things in front of other people that worry them, like giving a speech or eating in public. This can lead to panic attacks. A few types of social anxiety disorder are generalized social anxiety disorder, specific phobia (fear), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These disorders usually start early in life but symptoms may not be noticed until later on.    
The best way for someone with social anxiety is a therapy where the therapist tries different techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy. This is a way how to get rid of social anxiety.    

How to Get Over Social Anxiety


Let me give you three suggestions to overcome or tackle Social Anxiety.

● No shame in asking for help

It is normal and okay to have social anxiety. It is a mental disorder akin to a physical disorder like cough, cold, or headache. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Go to a counsellor or an expert who will listen to you, empathise with you, and help you realise that you are suffering from Social Anxiety. This is very critical because you need to understand what’s going on. There are root causes for Social Anxiety, and maybe counselling can help you know how and why you are suffering from it and how to deal with it.


● Seek help from a friend

In your office or university, seek help from a friend. Tell them you are uncomfortable going into a meeting alone and if they can help by introducing you to some colleagues to warm you up. This person then becomes a mediator and emotional support you need in a room and from whom you can derive strength during meetings and discussions.


● Take small steps

You are in a meeting room, people are looking at you, and you are scared. Break the ice by being courageous and saying something simple like, “Good evening, I am pleased to be here.” Will yourself to give a big smile; it will boost your self-confidence, and hopefully, your recovery from the problem of Social Anxiety will start. Once you begin to bring down your anxiety, your confidence starts to go up.    

Our propensity to avoid people might get worse with the social restrictions placed by COVID 19. So, start dealing with it by taking small steps. It will help you collaborate with people, to speak to them, get your work done, and find a meaningful life.

Watch Rakesh Godhwani’s video on Social Anxiety.



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