What is social anxiety: Definition of social anxiety
What is social anxiety? Social anxiety is a type of anxiety associated with social situations. People with social anxiety worry about present, past, or future social situations. These situations may be those that can result in embarrassment or conflict.
Anxiety overall is the fear or worry we have in relation to different situations. This covers real and imagined scenarios. It also refers to both internal and external situations. Anxiety can be a normal reaction to situations that may be dangerous, end badly, or have high stakes. However, for many people anxiety becomes disruptive and maladaptive.
Social anxiety occurs in social situations where we have to interact with others. The potential negative consequences will be linked to our relationships. For example, talking on the phone, eating in public, public speaking, and going to parties are all social situations.
People with social anxiety may struggle with specific social situations. For example, people may feel self-concious when eating in front of others. Some people, though, feel anxiety in any social situation unless it’s with close friends or family.
What is social anxiety then? It is anxiety that linked with any social situation.
What is social anxiety: Is social anxiety “normal”?
Now that we have defined what is social anxiety, it’s worth considering whether it is normal or not. Almost everyone experiences social anxiety from time to time. We want people to like us or we may want to avoid being judged. So, we worry in social situations.
People who do not have any social anxiety are usually those with antisocial personality disorder or sociopaths. This disorder is associated with a lack of empathy. Sociopaths do not make deep and meaningful connections.
These individuals do not care about other people’s opinions or ideas (probably includes most of our politicians and world “leaders” unfortunately). This can make them come off as being very confident. They can easily appear charming. However, this disorder is associated with a variety of difficulties too. For instance, they are more likely to get in trouble with the law.
Most people experience social anxiety throughout their lives, especially in high stakes situations. However, for some people social anxiety becomes constant. So, when talking about what is social anxiety, it’s important to mention that most people experience it to some degree. For some, it becomes a serious issue.
What is social anxiety: Where does social anxiety come from?
When talking about what social anxiety is, you may wonder why it appears. Anxiety is a reaction to danger or risk. So, it seems strange it should also appear in common situations like calling someone on the phone.
Today, the judgment of our peers doesn’t always have a lot of weight. It hurts to be judged or rejected, but it’s something we can survive. However, this wasn’t always so.
For our ancestors, judgment or rejection could mean death. Being exiled from a tribe or a village could mean certain doom because people did not have the choice to move away. Other people could be hostile or live too far away for the person to reach them. Rejection could also mean a lot of trouble because you had to see the people you disliked every day. You depended on your community a lot.
Today, you can move away and change a community with a lot of ease. However, for many people the once adaptive response of social anxiety still occurs. For many others, it becomes a big problem.
What is social anxiety: What characterizes maladaptive social anxiety?
What is social anxiety disorder or social phobia? It is a disruptive manifestation of social anxiety. It creates self-consciousness and fear of judgment. This makes people avoid social interaction. People with this problem may be irrationally anxious in social situations.
Social anxiety as a disorder is among the most common disorders out there. It affects millions across the world. There are two basic types of social phobia: specific and generalized.
Specific social anxieties are associated with some specific situations. A person might be afraid of public speaking or of making phone calls, but they can manage in other social situations. Generalized social anxiety is associated with a lack of comfort in many or most social situations.
There are common situations that induce a lot of anxiety. Some also struggle when talking to strange people. Others may be uncomfortable doing something while people are watching. Many struggle with any situation that puts them in the spotlight. Some have difficulties with any interpersonal relationships.
Social anxiety manifests through intense fear and physical manifestations of anxiety. People might sweat, blush, tremble, or struggle to speak. Many experience anxiety for hours, days, or even weeks in anticipation of an event. This makes them avoid it or strongly want to avoid it. People with social anxiety may feel lonely or become isolated due to this problem.
What is social anxiety: How to control anxiety
An important question is, then: how to control this anxiety? What can people do about it? Simple exposure does not usually work. Although people with social anxiety may be forced to interact with others, their anxiety does not go away because of it.
Often the best solution is to accept social anxiety and seek professional help if it too disruptive to your well-being. Therapy and, sometimes, medication can make a big difference in the life of someone with social anxiety. Self-help is also key.
You can treat social anxiety and you may try to change the way in which you see social situations. Further, you can try monitoring your thoughts to identify the irrational ideas you have and challenging them. This is usually more effective when done with professional support, but it can be a starting point. For example, if you are afraid of others people judging you, focus on the idea others are busy with themselves.
Learning how to control the anxiety you feel is very important. There are many strategies you can use for this, but it’s important to find things that work for you.
Sometimes, it helps to seek counseling even if you don’t feel your anxiety is that severe. It can be good to have someone on your side guiding you through the process. You can better learn how to control anxiety and to manage it in healthy ways.
What is social anxiety: Wrap up
What is social anxiety? It is a fear response to situations that involve social interaction. Most people experience it from time to time, but for many, it becomes a real problem. Social anxiety is a problem when it limits a person’s social activity or when it is a common source of distress.
Social anxiety is likely to be to some degree an inherited response to social situations. It may date back to a time when our survival depended on our interpersonal relationships. Although this is no longer the case as social relationships play a big role in our lives and our well-being.
Social anxiety can limit our lives significantly. People with severe anxiety may avoid social situations. Some people suffer from specific social phobias, associated with specific situations. For example, a fear of calling on the phone is specific.
Others have generalized social anxiety that means they struggle with many or most social situations. People with social anxiety may want to interact more, but feel distressed when they do. Social anxiety may create severe distress that manifests with blushing, pain, sweating, nausea, and so on. It can be very disruptive.
Social phobia is among the most common mental health problems out there, affecting millions around the world. The best solution is to seek professional help if it is very disruptive to your well-being. Through therapy and self-help methods, it is possible to reduce the impact of social anxiety and live a more fulfilling life.
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