What Is Social Phobia And Why We Must Understand It Better?
Social phobia, or social anxiety disorder (SAD), is intense anxiety linked with the fear of being judged or rejected publicly. For some, this phobia is linked to specific social situations — mingling at social events. For others, speaking to strangers, or maybe, even performing in public. This condition is quite common. However, the situations that trigger the symptoms for this particular anxiety can vary from person to person. It’s crucial to know that anxiety disorders can even run in families.
Social phobia should not be attributed to introversion
Why it’s important to mention this here is because most people confuse social anxiety with the behaviour of an introvert. It must be noted that introversion is just another personality trait and there’s nothing wrong with it. “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured,” says author Susan Cain, and rightly so.
If you’re an introvert, you’re in the company with the likes of JK Rowling, Bill Gates, Audrey Hepburn, Albert Einstein, and countless others. It’s no disadvantage to not want something that the others are going for. It’s ok to not want to speak a lot in a conversation. The world may seem to adjudge extroverts as more desirable, but in reality, one can never be better than the other. The two personalities are significantly different and that’s exactly what everyone must embrace.
What causes social phobia?
Studies have shown that social phobia may often lead to triggers causing the disorder. This can consequently create havoc in one’s life. Some of the most common social anxiety triggers include: public performance or appearance, public speaking, meeting new people, conversing with people in authority etc.
Research suggests that sometimes this disorder can also be caused by a combination of several factors. Also, negative experiences like personal conflicts, family mishaps, bullying or abuse may also may lead to this condition.
Some physical symptoms include: nausea, excessive sweating, difficulty in speaking, rapid heart rate or dizziness and trembling. There are also psychological symptoms which may help recognise the extremity of this condition. Some of these are: worrying for days before an event, missing school, college or work because of anxiety, stressing endlessly about social situations or rejecting yourself predicting future results.
How can you deal with it?
- Challenge negative thoughts
While it may seem like an uphill task, there’s one thing you can do — fight the negative thoughts. Social anxiety sufferers develop beliefs, which contribute to their fears. Some of these thoughts are: “What if I embarrass myself?”, “What if they reject me?”, “I won’t have much to contribute, may make a fool out of myself.” etc.
It’s vital to accept one’s situation, face these fears, and then work towards dismantling the negative thought process. Yes, it’s incredibly scary to think about what you feel and why you feel it. However, analysing the reasons for your anxieties will lessen the burden on your life and help you move forward.
Whenever there’s free time, spend it the way you like it best, not the way others think you’re supposed to
People may have varied opinions about what you must do and how you must do it. However, it’s important to know who you really are and accept yourself. Challenge yourself to learn more and overcome your fears. It’s also important to try new experiences, therefore, don’t hold back. Having said that, be proud of your individuality and everything that you represent regardless.
- Harness your strengths
People suffering from social phobia may have difficulty in recognising their strengths. Here comes the biggest challenge therein. Staying focused on a project that one’s efficient at can help channelise the energy into something better.
- Other treatment options
Treatment may differ from person to person. In extreme cases, the healthcare provider may refer you to a treatment best suited for you.
There are several therapies suggested as well: Cognitive behavioural therapy – This helps you control anxiety through relaxation, and how to develop positive ones.
Exposure therapy – This helps you face social situations, rather than avoid them.
Group therapy – This helps you learn social skills and techniques to interact with people in social gatherings.
How can people can empathasise with those who are socially phobic
For several people making a mark at social events, there are several others struggling to understand and channelise their thoughts in the first place. With countless people suffering in these shadows, it becomes even more crucial to talk extensively with people around you and know them better. Instead of overlooking someone’s symptoms, try to help the person and provide a sense of belonging.
True, young India is not shy to talk about their ordeals. However, it’s the stigma around mental health that still keeps many from dealing with their problems. It’s easier to judge and form opinions about those who suffer or behave differently. Instead, let’s give them a hand and help them open up about their fears. Let’s understand that a conversation can go a long way.