Do you dread social occasions? Do you feel that people are looking at you all the time, and forming negative opinions even though they might never have spoken to you? If so, it could be because you suffer from social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is an irrational fear of other people and being negatively judged. It affects millions of people in all walks of life, with many different causes and levels of severity. It can range from simply feeling uncomfortable speaking in front of groups to near life crippling, and making you avoid the world altogether.
But thankfully, social anxiety disorder is a condition that can be treated and you can overcome social anxiety over the long-term. It is possible to reduce the thoughts and feelings of social anxiety so they no longer hold you back in life.
Social anxiety disorder can occur for many different reasons, and it’s severity varies between individuals. Rather than a chemical imbalance, typically social phobia occurs because of a negative belief system developed during childhood. If you were bullied at school or treated badly by the people around you it can cause you to develop a subconscious belief that people are unpleasant and best avoided.
There are biological causes too. The human brain has been evolving for millions of years. But we’ve only started living together in communities for the last 10,000 or so. Relatively speaking, this is very little time to lose the fight or flight mechanism that kept us alive when there were sabre tooth tigers and packs of hyenas to worry about. Unfortunately for social phobics, it’s this fight or flight mechanism that is activated inappropriately if you sense threats from other people because of your negative belief system
This in turn triggers the heightened awareness, racing heartbeat, shaking and sweating that happens when in social situations as your body prepares itself to fight or to escape from danger.
If social anxiety disorder is causing you to avoid other people, to feel depressed or to struggle to deal with situations in a healthy manner, I can imagine that right now you feel your life is on hold. Your fear or distrust of people can feel as though it’s hardwired into your brain, that it’s a permanent problem and no hope exists for a better life.
Social anxiety disorder can indeed be a difficult way of thinking and behaving to overcome. But it’s not impossible. Unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving can be unlearned and replaced. It is possible to adopt a healthier, more objective way of thinking that will help your social phobia to reduce as a result.
As a human being you are evolving all the time. You just need to start evolving in a way that will leave behind the troubling thoughts and painful feelings of social anxiety disorder. Instead, you need to embrace positive ways of thinking that will make you feel better about yourself and the people in this world around you.
As thousands of people have discovered, with practice, patience and persistence it is possible to overcome social anxiety disorder and live a more fulfilling life free from the fear of strangers.
I was always a painfully shy child. I used to dread lunchtimes at school and having to try and think of the right things to say when interacting with the other kids. I was always happier on my own, and school felt like a prison sentence I had to endure and get through.
Unfortunately, my problems relaxing and interacting with other people didn’t leave me when I grew into adulthood.
I continued to feel nervous, uncomfortable and afraid whenever around people I didn’t know. Whenever I attended social events I’d always drink excessively to try and numb my brain to try and relax, while at work I adopted coping strategies and avoidance just to get through the day.
I felt so awkward and uncomfortable that the idea of ever earning a promotion or progressing in life seemed like a pipedream. It was as though I was living in a different world to the rest of humanity and that I was stuck down a black hole I couldn’t get out of.
Eventually I reached the point where I could go on feeling doomed to always feel this way or try and do something about it. I didnt have any friends or close family I felt I could share my problems with, so my only other option was to visit my doctor for advice.
Opening up about how awful, afraid and uncomfortable I felt all the time was quite a struggle for me. But telling someone about how I felt seemed the only way to find out how I could get better. The doctor listened patiently and nodded as though he fully understood my problems and condition. He then swiftly prescribed me a dose of beta blockers to help ‘calm me down’.
Now, if social anxiety disorder is harming your enjoyment of life then you should always seek professional advice. But in my instance, medication alone wasn’t the answer. All the beta blockers did was make me feel like an unemotional robot all day. They also weren’t helping to address the negative thoughts that were driving my social anxiety disorder.
So I started to do my own research. After looking up the causes of anxiety, I found out about the specific condition of social anxiety disorder. This was the lightbulb moment for me. Having a medical definition for the uncomfortable feelings I had around other people meant that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. It also helped me realise that it was negative thoughts driving my social anxiety disorder, rather than the situations themselves.
After discovering that I was suffering from social phobia, Intense research then followed. The three books I found the most helpful were:
If you’re just getting started on your journey to overcoming social anxiety disorder, I recommend reading these books right away. This will help you to understand what’s driving your social phobia and that it is possible to overcome it with patience and persistence.
Dr David D Burns’ book in particular was very helpful and it did live up to its promise of making me feel better about my condition and building my hopes for the future.
With a diagnosis comes treatment. After recognising that I had to fix my negative belief system, I set about creating a strategy for overcoming social anxiety disorder for good.
This comprised of:
All of these changes and improvements took time to achieve. Feeling more relaxed and self assured didn’t come in weeks or months, but over the course of several years. But starting on this path didn’t eventually lead to being able to rewire my brain to feel better about myself and the world around me.
Overcoming social anxiety disorder is all about taking gradual steps towards improving the way you think about yourself and the world around you. You have to keep building on small improvements until all the small changes in your thoughts and lifestyle accumulate so that your social anxiety reduces as a result.
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Before I started doing my own research I had no clue that social anxiety disorder existed. So I decided to turn a negative into a positive and create a resource that will help other people struggling to find out more about social anxiety and how to reduce it over the long-term.
On this website you’ll find lots of information on what causes social anxiety and the changes you can make to your lifestyle that will help to overcome it. I’ve also created an eBook which details the cognitive behavioural exercises that helped me to challenge my negative ways of thinking, and think in a healthier and more positive manner. It also includes lots of other articles on social anxiety and ways to feel better.
You can get it now on Amazon for less than the price of a magazine and begin your path towards overcoming social anxiety disorder for good.
But if you’d prefer some free information instead, I hope you’ll signup for my newsletter that’s packed with daily advice on how to feel better about yourself and to make changes that will reduce your social anxiety over time:
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