Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a debilitating illness. It’s not just being shy or introverted. It’s an illness which prevents you from functioning normally.
There are also different degrees of social anxiety. Some sufferers might only get a little nervous in social situations, but they still manage to go through with them and live relatively normal lives. Others might not be able to get out of bed and leave the house.
Now, for treatment. Frequently, there isn’t one universal cure-all which cures everyone with social phobia. However, there are undoubtedly techniques which frequently prove effective in many cases. These treatments can work very effectively either on their own or when used in combination with other methods. Different things work for different people. Everyone has their own brain chemistry and different circumstances in their lives, so we must find what works for us as individuals.
Now, here are 5 of the top methods and techniques which have been proven to work. I’ve not included medication and therapy from mental health professionals. The list here comprises additional techniques.
(1) Talk to people. This may sound like bad advice for sufferers of social phobia, as it can be extremely challenging to speak to someone, but the evidence shows that the more we meet people, the easier it gets. If we hide away and become hermits, as I did, then it becomes such a monumental task to talk to and meet people.
However, if we just try to say hello to a stranger every day or two, and then build up to short conversations and perhaps beyond, then it will gradually become easier for us. Over the course of weeks and months, we should notice our attitude of fear of other people gradually change, into one of openness and friendliness.
(2) A change in our attitude can really revolutionise the way we view meetings with other people. Those with social phobia tend to view social encounters as something to be feared, and avoided at all cost. We get extremely fearful about how we sound, look and act, as we think we might be judged negatively or even made fun of.
But what if we thought differently? What if we stopped making presumptions and assuming that an encounter was going to be stressful and unpleasant, even before it’s happened? If we presume that it’s going to be difficult, then more than likely that’s how it will turn out.
Instead, let’s go into social situations cheerful, optimistic, confident-acting, and the other person/people will probably respond in a more positive manner.
(3) Focus on other people. As sufferers of social phobia, we usually focus on ourselves too much, as we’re so worried about how we’re going to be viewed and treated by others. Instead, it would help us to focus on the other person. Change things round. Ask them about their problems, and think about them instead of ourselves.
(4) Be mindful. Humans often have the tendency to worry and get caught up in our emotions. This is not very helpful for people with anxiety who find themselves in a stressful situation, as our mind will be full of constant anxious thoughts. And these unhelpful thought patterns will then make us feel worse and worse.
A much healthier alternative is to literally take our mind off our thoughts. Force ourselves to think of something else entirely. It’s called mindfulness. This is where we focus completely on the things around us or on what we are doing. In other words, we fill our minds with the now.
(5) Lastly, a serious practice of daily meditation, when carried out for an extended period of time, will do wonders for your emotional well-being. I recommend beginning with 5 mins a day, building up to an hour or so eventually.
This is of course not an exhaustive list. There are many techniques which can help with social anxiety disorder. My advice is to try different methods, and see what works for you. But maybe start off with the methods I describe in this article, as well as therapy and possibly medication.
I also have a blog, at www.ibeatmysocialanxiety.com. Please drop by if you can, and subscribe to the site, to get information about social anxiety disorder and mental health in general. Many thanks! John