Do you find that you will do almost anything to avoid confrontation? Does the thought of having to speak to another person whether an acquaintance, friend or stranger send you into a panic? Perhaps you have been described as shy but this intense desire to avoid talking or being around people can be much more than that. You may suffer from an anxiety disorder termed Social Anxiety Disorder. It can be a very challenging disorder since social interactions are hard to avoid in daily life. People with social anxiety believe they are being judged negatively by others. This is usually inaccurate and more a reflection of a person’s own insecurities. Often people fear sounding “stupid” or experiencing awkward silence in conversation and wrongfully assume others think they are “boring. “As a result people may withdraw from social situations which can cause feelings of isolation and other mental health issues such as depression.
The good news is there are things you can do to lessen your social anxiety. It can be helpful to work on questioning your automatic thoughts and work on realizing that these thoughts are often irrational and illogical. It can be beneficial to ask yourself a series of questions such as, “Has this person given me any evidence to suggest they are judging me negatively?” For instance, this person has initiated talking with me and spending time with me. This example does not support the idea that this person thinks negatively of me. Another coping skill can be to ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend if they were talking to me about assuming someone else was judging them?” Often times we can be more aware of another’s cognitive distortions and be more positive with them. We can then take the advice we gave to our friend and try to apply it to our situation. It can be challenging to question your automatic thoughts and replace it with a healthier one since our thinking patterns have often been reinforced over time. Perhaps, we grew up with a judgmental parent who was very critical of us or we witnessed our family talk negatively about others a lot. Our automatic thoughts cannot always be regarded as a true depiction of ourselves, but a subjective experience. As you develop a more positive self-definition, you will be able to reject the messaging in your brain that others are thinking so negatively of you. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be very beneficial in helping with social anxiety. With patience and reinforcement people can learn to feel less intimidated by social situations and will be able to enter them without feeling so uncomfortable.
If you or someone you know needs help dealing with social anxiety disorder, please contact me to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.