Lifestyle and home remedies

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Although social anxiety disorder generally requires help from a medical expert or qualified psychotherapist, you can try some self-help techniques to handle situations likely to trigger your symptoms.

First, consider your fears to identify what situations cause the most anxiety. Then gradually practice these activities until they cause you less anxiety. Begin with small steps in situations that aren't overwhelming.

Situations to practice may include:

  • Eating with a close relative, friend or acquaintance in a public setting.
  • Making eye contact and returning greetings from others, or being the first to say hello
  • Giving someone a compliment
  • Asking a retail clerk to help you find an item
  • Getting directions from a stranger
  • Showing an interest in others — ask about their homes, children, grandchildren, hobbies or travels, for instance
  • Calling a friend to make plans

At first, being social when you're feeling anxious is challenging. As difficult or painful as it may seem initially, don't avoid situations that trigger your symptoms. By regularly facing these kinds of situations, you'll continue to build and reinforce your coping skills.

The following techniques can help you begin to face situations that make you nervous:

  • Prepare for conversation. For instance, read the newspaper to identify an interesting story you can talk about.
  • Focus on personal qualities you like about yourself.
  • Practice relaxation exercises.
  • Adopt stress management techniques.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Pay attention to how often the embarrassing situations you're afraid of actually take place. You may notice that the scenarios you fear usually don't come to pass.
  • When embarrassing situations do happen, remind yourself that your feelings will pass, and you can handle them until they do.

Avoid using alcohol to calm your nerves. It may seem like it helps, but in the long run it can make you feel more anxious.

Aug. 23, 2011

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