“I will worry about a social gathering as soon as know about it. I rarely commit so that I can have a way out.”
“Just the thought of going to the grocery store can send me into a panic. And if the parking lot is full? Forget it, I don’t even go in.”
“I hate talking on the phone; I get so anxious when I have to call for an appointment, or even to order a pizza.”
Social anxiety is the fear of social situations; people who suffer with social anxiety will report that it really isn’t about shyness, but rather the fear of interacting with people they don’t know. This is typically why crowded places such as stores, theatres, or big social gatherings become sources of anxiety, fear and avoidance.
In my work with clients who report struggling with social anxiety, they often speak about the fear of being judged by others and not wanting to be the center of attention. They worry that everyone will be looking at them, or they will have no one to talk to and be left standing alone, open to criticism. They feel trapped.
The first step in addressing social anxiety is to explore it. How did it develop? What are your biggest struggles when it comes to meeting new people? How would you like it to change?
Sometimes social anxiety can begin as a result of having been bullied or ostracized as a child. The social interactions we have as adults often mimic those in a school setting, and if we struggled in school to fit in or make friends, it might have created an association of fear when meeting new people. Sometimes social anxiety can come from a history of family conflict; being repeatedly criticized, or having been abused as a child. We can also struggle with social anxiety if we tend to be quite introverted; small talk is difficult, coupled with a fear of confrontation, and the noise and heightened energy of crowds can be overstimulating.
Once we can identify the potential cause of our social anxiety, we can begin to work at challenging it. Tomorrow’s post will explore some ways that we can move towards feeling safer in social situations.
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