WHAT IS SOCIAL ANXIETY?
Have you ever been in a group of people and all of a sudden your thoughts are racing at a 1,000 mph, you find that your palms are sweaty, your mouth is dry and you suddenly feel the sudden urge to run out? Well this is what a socially anxious person goes through regularly. As in every single day. It's truly not a pleasant experience to feel that whatever you do is going to be criticized, even if that's not necessarily the case, but the socially anxious and more specifically those who suffer from social anxiety disorder go through this every single day.
But what is social anxiety, like what the heck is it?
Social anxiety or sociaphobia as it is clinically termed is the extreme fear of social situations due to apprehensions about being judged. Whether valid or invalid these feelings of silent judgement are perpetual and do not go away with time around a certain environment. It is important that I add that social anxiety is very different from shyness which tends to dissipate with time and familiarity. Shyness is a personality trait whereas social anxiety is a mental health condition.
Here are some of the symptoms. Now before I go into these if you see anyone, maybe a relative, a friend or someone you care about exhibiting these symptoms, judging WON'T fix the problem. Telling them, "you should be more outgoing" WON'T fix the problem. Insulting them WON'T fix the problem.
The first step in helping someone socially anxious is to be empathetic, show compassion because in their head they already think no one has patience for their faults.
One of the biggest tell-tale signs of a socially anxious person is they stress over every day activities such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone and so on.
If you find a person over processing any of these thing's chances, are they may be socially anxious.
They tend to be very preoccupied with the future possibility of embarrassing moments such as publicly sweating, they may be very aware of their surroundings and personal space especially if mildly unkempt in the presence of others. This in some cases has some overlap with OCD.
They may be very much afraid of others perceiving them as anxious.
They may experience shakiness in their voice, trembling, muscle tension or in some extreme cases nausea and panic attacks.
Because of this they may avoid social situations altogether, this is not to be confused with introversion. They may struggle to make eye contact, they may struggle with dating and in very extreme cases they may struggle to use a public toilet/restroom.
The best course of action to take if you feel as if someone is struggling with this is like I said previously be kind, empathetic and patient towards them. Secondly, in a loving way recommend they seek professional help. Psychotherapy has been very instrumental in helping people who suffer from this. Sometimes it can be cured organically but in extreme cases where it has persisted for years this is when treatment is advised.
It could be as a result of bad experiences, past bullying.
It could be due to a heightened amygdala. That is the part of the brain which controls memories, experience, if subjected to adverse negative social experiences the amygdala's reception to all experiences of this nature will be negative which will in turn send certain receptors to the body to alert the afflicted of the ‘alleged’ danger ahead of this social interaction. Psychotherapy or cognitive therapy may involve retraining the amygdala to send more neutral receptors to the body.
It could be inherited, if a family member has/had social anxiety chances are an offspring can have social anxiety also.
Let’s say academic writings or blogposts on this topic feel a bit much for you to read and if you're like me and you enjoy watching movies from different walks of life and different undertones to their storytelling consider watching these recommended films which in some way depict characters going through social anxiety.
- Amelie( French film)
- My Shy Boss (Korean series on Netflix)
- The King's Speech