Anxiety disorders are a relatively common class of disorders. These disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic disorder,specific phobias, and social anxiety. Social anxieties are similar to having a specific phobia for social situations. They can be debilitating to a person, because their social phobias may cause them to avoid many social situations which are necessary in everyday life. Luckily, there are ways to treat social phobias.
How to Overcome Social Phobia:
1. Seek out the help of a professional
Although one cannot self-diagnose, if one feels they endure certain social situations with only intense anxiety and distress, they should seek out professional assessment. The first step to overcoming any problem is accepting there is one, and a trained clinician can help a person overcome things they may not be able to on their own.
2. Exposure therapy
One common treatment for social anxieties is exposure therapy. This treatment is also used for many other specific phobias, like those for snakes, spiders, and heights. Exposure therapy essentially puts the patient in a situation which gives them anxiety, and makes them wait until the anxiety subsides naturally, without escaping the situation. As the patient progresses, they not longer react with anxiety for situations they once did, and treatment continues to get more intense. For example, a patient with a spider phobia would be first exposed to a picture of a spider. After they can look at a picture with no anxiety, they must touch a fake spider, then be in a room with a real spider, then touch a real spider. For social anxieties, the person may be exposed to a movie/clip with represents the situation they fear, then slowly progress toward their actual fear.
Exposure therapy is so successful because it re-teaches patients that there is not a threat where they/their body perceives one. Anxiety disorders are self-reinforcing because escaping the situation relieves the anxiety. By making the patient endure the anxiety, it shows them that the anxiety can go away on its own, and escape is not necessary.
3.Find the cause
Another helpful thing for those with social phobias may be to identify the cause of their phobia. Anxieties often come from past experiences, or experiences a person witnesses happening to others. For example, a time in which a person completely forgot their lines to a speech in front of the whole school can be something that contributes to a fear of public speaking. Not all social anxieties/phobias have a clear cause, but trying to talk through possible reasons the person is so fearful of social situations can help them. Once they identify the reasons, a clinician may be able talk them through the rationale of their anxiety.
Social phobias can be so extreme that they can truly diminish the quality of a person’s life. There are ways to overcome social phobias, but one will likely need the help of a professional. If a person feels intense anxiety and distress while in all or certain social situations, they should consult a psychologist. A trained professional will offer the tools and services to allow a person to overcome their social phobias.