WHAT IS SOCIAL ANXIETY?
Mental health is one often discussed yet rarely understood topic nowadays. Mental health does not only mean the “absence of disorders” but also the emotional, cognitive, behavioral and social well being of an individual. Increasing mental health awareness these days also calls for acknowledgement of mental disorders.
SOCIAL ANXIETY is the third largest mental health care problem in the world today. It is a chronic mental health condition in which social interaction causes irrational anxiety. This anxiety is beyond the individual’s ability to control and thus acts as a hindrance in daily activities such as going to work, asking questions in class, hosting parties or events, etc. Fear of judgement or negative evaluation, feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, worry about embarrassment, anxiousness in social situations, concern about offending someone are some symptoms experienced by people suffering from social anxiety.
WHAT CAUSES SOCIAL ANXIETY?
- GENETICS: This disorder tends to run in families. A child whose parents or grandparents have faced this problem before is prone to such type of anxiety. However, it is not completely a result of genetics but also of learned behavior to a great extent.
- ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS: Learned behavior may also be a reason for people experiencing social anxiety. Adults facing this problem might have learned this as kids, as portrayed to them by their parents.
- PAST EXPERIENCES: Confrontation with embarrassing or unpleasant social situations in the past may also develop this type of disorder. People who experience bullying, teasing, humiliation, rejection or other family conflicts or trauma are more prone to social anxiety.
- OVERACTIVE AMYGDALA: A structure in the brain called the amygdala plays a role in controlling the fear response. People with an overactive amygdala may have a heightened fear response, causing increased anxiety in social situations.
Social anxiety is very distressing and has a big impact on quality of life. It affects physical health, interpersonal relationships and is also a reason for behavioral changes. Few side effects such as increased risk of infection or digestive issues are also seen in some people. In severe cases, it may also result in other disorders such as depression, agoraphobia etc.
OTHER NEGATIVE IMPACTS:
- Addictions: Increase in anxiety may also result in addiction to substances that provide temporary relief such as drugs or alcohol. These substances may provide temporary relief but often end up deteriorating the condition, making the individual dependent on it.
- Eating Disorders: This anxiousness also results in eating disorders that are characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. Often individuals facing such situations either eat too much or stop eating at all thus affecting the ability to function in important areas of life.
- Isolation or Social Withdrawal : People experiencing such problems often isolate themselves. They avoid going to crowded places where they may have to meet a lot of people. They avoid communication and find peace in enjoying their own company.
HOW TO DEAL WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY IN A HEALTHY WAY?
Coping can be defined as a situation-specific response to minimise stress or conflict. Learning to cope well can help one deal with social anxiety. So, here are some key points which help deal with inevitable and prolonged social anxiety:
- ASSERTIVENESS: It is defined as the skill which helps an individual to communicate confidently, to express emotions and opinions without being self-conscious. Learning this skill would help socially anxious people in developing a solid sense of your own identity and become individuals with high self-esteem and confidence.
- POSITIVE ATTITUDE: The optimistic approach has been increasingly recognized as helpful in coping with stressful situations. Dealing with daily hassles and nervousness causing social situations positively may prove to be of great help in the long term.
- OVERCOMING UNHELPFUL HABITS: Habits such as procrastination and perfectionism do little good and more often end up becoming a cause of anxiousness. Such habits, making one vulnerable to social anxiousness need not be followed always.
- HEALTHY LIFESTYLE: Change in lifestyle can be very helpful sometimes. Taking a balanced diet and exercising daily gives energy, improves circulation and makes one feel better to cope with daily stresses and anxious situations. Practicing meditation procedures may also help in reducing fearful responses.
Often small steps taken in the right direction can help to come out of difficult situations. All you need to do is show perseverance and face your fears. Needless to say that everything takes time and efforts pay off. Social anxiety is not only treatable but also helps one to get better or even grow in the process. So decide your first step and get started!
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