So, in this podcast we are looking at another form of anxiety. Social fears are probably the most common form of anxiety that we experience. On the basis that around three million people in the UK are suffering from anxiety at any one time a high percentage of these will be experiencing social anxiety.
Social anxiety or social phobia is a whole size bigger than simple shyness. Like all forms of anxiety it involves a fear of the future. All forms of anxiety can only be experienced by those who have a good imagination. Anxiety requires the person to be able to visualise the fear. In many cases sufferers have an overwhelming fear of social situations and gatherings. However, those who suffer from agoraphobia often also have a social anxiety. When people are claustrophobic they fear being confined and not able to get out they may also fear isolation and need to be with other people to feel secure and safe. The reverse is true with agoraphobia when people can be scared of lots of people in large open spaces such as an airport or a supermarket.
Often people with social anxiety have a dread of everyday activities. This could include going to work or to a friends house, taking the children to school, attending school or going to the library. There may also be a fear of meeting strangers, going on first dates, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, or going shopping. Any form of group conversations, eating in public or taking public transport or an aeroplane. The list can become endless.
One feature of anxiety phobia is that its object will change. So if you overcome one thing such as flying the phobia can switch to shopping centre. If you solve the shopping centre the phobia will simply move onto another object, until the person resolves the underlying issue.
Social phobics often feel embarrassed by how they look or act. They can be embarrassed by their bodily reaction such as blushing, sweating, clumsiness, appearing incompetent or in some way being seen as stupid. The is often a paranoid fear that others are watching, criticising or judging you.
These fears can lead to avoiding eye contact, feeling sick, sweating, trembling, increased heart rate or a pounding heartbeat (palpitations). In the extreme these symptoms can build into panic attacks.
Anxiety and panic attacks can lead to rapid heartbeat, muscle tension and fatigue, dizziness and lightheadedness, disturbed stomach and diarrhoea, difficulty in catching breath, feeling faint and disturbed sleep patterns.
So what do you do?
My starting point is Mindfulness with meditation, relaxation, seven eleven breathing and good sleep. However, life style and social, emotional situations need to be reviewed as well as the persons working situation.
Your GP or other healthcare provider can discuss different medication options to manage both the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety. There is a range of medication that can be used to manage anxiety and it is important to discuss with your GP which one would be most appropriate for your circumstances.
Talking therapies – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help to teach strategies for recognising and overcoming distressing or anxious thoughts, it is one of the most common therapies for treatment and management of anxiety especially within the NHS.
Most importantly do not suffer alone talk to someone and seek support.
Take care, be happy.