6 Treatments for Social Anxiety That Actually Work
Imagine that every move you make was on a stage, with the most critical people in your life as audience and they are all scrutinizing your every move.
Laughing, mocking, berating, at every little movement you make, every little thought you have, every breath you take…
This scenario plays out in the minds of millions of people who suffer from social anxiety, even while they do something mundane such as getting up in the morning and going to the bathroom.
Every one of us has this small corner of insecurities, fears and anxiety that sometimes affects our mood and behavior – this is normal.
But people with social anxiety feel stifled and choked by the constant negative thoughts that run in their own mind. So much in fact that it makes it very difficult for them to function normally in society. This strong feeling of anxiety turns into depression as well.
Something like a meeting in the afternoon at work can be a terrifying test for people with this kind of disorder. They begin to feel extremely uncomfortable in the presence of other people and think that everyone in the meeting is watching them and critiquing their every move.
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The fact that over 40 million people are suffering from anxiety in the US alone does not seem to correlate to public awareness of the problem.
Sadly, even today, most people think that the sufferer has just to ‘man up’ and it will go away. Worst cases, people like this will be made fun of, and so afflicted people stuff their ‘illness’ still deeper into a defensive wall which no one can breach and neither can help.
What Does it Feel Like?
You are walking down the street on a bright, sunny day. It’s been ages since you’ve got out of the house, but still you want to do it.
If only to look at yourself in the mirror triumphantly when you get back, thinking “Hah, see? There’s nothing wrong with me!”
It All Seems to be Going Well
“This was a fantastic idea”, you think to yourself. Then out of the corner of your eye you notice a girl, laughing and talking to someone over the phone.
Immediately your mind begins to race “Is she talking about me? Is it my hair? How I walk? Or is it the color of my pants? Maybe my pants are torn and I wore them without noticing?”
…flood into the frail, tranquil, frame of mind which you’ve just constructed before you got out of the house.
You began to stiffen up. Your breathing becomes heavy and labored.
You begin to notice many eyes peering at you, looking through to your very soul.
You Must Get Away, Must Find Shelter.
As you stumble awkwardly trying to head back to your house, you can hear the cacophony of laughter, rising in pitch and decibels until it becomes unbearable.
You finally get to your house. You get in and shut the door. Then you slowly crumble to the ground, sobbing. There’s a note on the table and scribbled on it with your handwriting, “I will do it today!”
Imagine if this was every day of your life…
Social anxiety symptoms manifest in different ways: some happen in the body, some in the mind, and others in the way they change our behavior.
When struck with feelings of anxiety, our body reacts in a few ways. In most people, this means sweating, shortness of breath, shaking, and an increased heart rate.
Many others have a tough time walking normally. They become so self conscious about how they look that they trip and fall over themselves.
People with social anxiety disorder tend to blush more often than people without the disorder.
When these symptoms hit, it’s usually obvious to everyone. When you shake, or can’t breath, or stumble or sweat, everyone sees it — and this actually makes you more anxious.
You may experience some or all of these symptoms, or none of them. But generally, if you are feeling above-average intensity of anxiety when you have a meeting, planning a date, or just out grocery shopping, you might be showing signs of social anxiety developing.
This becomes a big problem when you become super anxious with the small stresses of everyday life. There is distinct difference between just being anxious (this is okay) and having a panic attack (not okay) every time meeting someone or going out is mentioned.
If you can’t figure it out for yourself, ask your friends or family for help in identifying whether you have anxiety disorder. Failing that, if you have even the slightest suspicion, you might want to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
In acute cases, you might have intense anxiety and depression when surrounded by large groups people, like at a party or conference. Do you find yourself constantly avoiding situations where people congregate? That’s a good sign that you have social anxiety disorder.
You might have strong feelings of self-consciousness thinking that you are constantly being watched, judged and laughed at by others. The good news is that you can move towards a solution simply by becoming aware of the problem.
Even if you’re not able to move forward on your own, you can seek the help of others. The best option for someone with social anxiety is to get help in some form or another.
If talking with someone sounds scary, take an anxiety-depression test. Online tests at sites like the NHS can give you a better understanding of your condition.
People Who Conquered Their Fears
You might think that you are alone with this affliction. This is not true. Yet, most people with social anxiety disorder think that they are alone.
But the fact is there are many people who have fought the good fight against social anxiety disorder, accompanying depression and have won. If you are suffering from it, you can take heart in the fact that these people were in the limelight and public eye for most of their lives. And if they can subvert this irrational fear, you can too.
Here are some of the most popular personalities who have had to suffer through anxiety disorders.
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How to Overcome Depression and Anxiety
Thanks to decades of research, we’ve been able to establish that depression and anxiety are real problems, and they are more relevant than ever in today’s world.
There is a lot of stress and pressure to perform at your absolute best in all areas of life. Stress by itself is not a bad thing. But non-stop chronic stress negatively manifests as depression and anxiety. Some people are able to deal with it, other people are not.
A curious thing about depression is that it’s hard to diagnose. We all have instances of feeling a bit blue or lack of drive on a Monday morning, but the difference is that depression brings with it all these feelings persistently, so much so that it impairs your day-to-day normal functioning.
There are a large percentage of deaths due to suicide and yet people do not recognize it as something that could be dangerous when allowed to stagnate. One of the problems is that, unbeknownst to the person suffering from it, depression keeps sapping away at your confidence and nature until there is nothing but a husk left.
Contrary to popular belief, people can’t just decide one day to wake up and feel not depressed. There are some ways which can alleviate and eliminate depression. Like most things that are difficult to accomplish, the key to rid yourself of this negative agent is to start small and make slow but steady progress.
There are also several depression and anxiety related forums which can help you with accounts of how other people have attacked their fears and come out on the winning side. Registration is mostly free and open. This has been a popular option with a lot of web designers who work long hours usually by themselves and ofter suffer the most from symptoms of anxiety and depression.
There are also phone numbers with support staff that cater to people suffering from depression and anxiety. They are toll-free and can help lend a sympathetic ear and may even suggest methods to combat it.
The Fight Against Depression
People can help!
One of the best and proven ways to get rid of this affliction is to surround yourself with the best support system you can get: friends and family. Some people tend to lock themselves away, physically and emotionally, in a dark corner. This is counter-productive because isolating yourself is practically the worst thing you can do to yourself and worsens the problem at hand.
You need people to help you get out of this rut. Although depression, by its very nature, makes it really hard to reach out to people and get their support. You need to steel yourself and make the extra effort to talk to close family and friends, sharing with them what you are exactly feeling. You can open up to them gradually if you feel too overwhelmed by it. Take your time and do this at your own pace. Accepting that it will be uncomfortable and take time is the first step.
At the end of the day, it’s worth the effort you take because these are people who want you to succeed and feel better. Quash negative feelings that reaching out for help is a sign of weakness or that you’ll be a burden on them.
Be more active socially. It helps you take your mind off the things that affect you negatively and bring more focus to current going-ons around you. While this can be a frightening ordeal for some, it’s the best step forward you can take. You being active socially helps you forget about the things that might have caused you to get depressed.
Do not neglect the power of support groups. Many people have shown remarkable progress when integrated into support groups of more than 5 people. Most times listening to other people can give comfort and help you relate better to people who actually suffer from the condition rather than someone who is just trying to calm you without knowing what the actual problem is.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has a list of support groups available here: ADAA Support Groups.
Sweat it out!
This is something that you can do by yourself and has great benefits psychologically plus it gives you a great physique! So you shouldn’t ignore this as one of the entry points for your depression’s exit.
Many major studies have shown that exercise helps overcoming mental blockades by sub-consciously challenging you to better yourself. It also forces your body to release several chemicals (the same chemicals present in most antidepressants) like endorphins and other mood-enhancing compounds which directly flow to your brain and give you a kick-start.
Ideally you should be sweating for at least 30-40 minutes a day. You can always work yourself up to that starting from short bursts o