Although social anxiety disorder generally requires help from a medical expert or qualified psychotherapist, you can try some of these techniques to handle situations that are likely to trigger your symptoms:
- Learn stress reduction skills
- Get physical exercise or be physically active on a regular basis
- Get enough sleep
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Avoid alcohol
- Limit or avoid caffeine
- Participate in social situations by reaching out to people with whom you feel comfortable
Practice in small steps
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 by setting daily or weekly goals in situations that aren't overwhelming. The more you practice, the less anxious you'll feel.
Consider practicing these situations:
- Eat with a close relative, friend or acquaintance in a public setting
- Purposefully make eye contact and return greetings from others, or be the first to say hello
- Give someone a compliment
- Ask a retail clerk to help you find an item
- Get directions from a stranger
- Show an interest in others — ask about their homes, children, grandchildren, hobbies or travels, for instance
- Call a friend to make plans
Prepare for social situations
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.
These strategies can help you begin to face situations that make you nervous:
- Prepare for conversation, for example, by reading the newspaper to identify an interesting story you can talk about.
- Focus on personal qualities you like about yourself.
- Practice relaxation exercises.
- Learn 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. Most people around you either don't notice or don't care as much as you think, or they're more forgiving than you assume.
Avoid using alcohol to calm your nerves. It may seem like it helps temporarily, but in the long run it can make you feel more anxious.
These coping methods may help ease your anxiety:
- Routinely reach out to friends and family members.
- Join a local or reputable internet-based support group.
- Join a group that offers opportunities to improve communication and public speaking skills, such as Toastmasters International.
- Do pleasurable or relaxing activities, such as hobbies, when you feel anxious.
Over time, these coping methods can help control your symptoms and prevent a relapse. Remind yourself that you can get through anxious moments, that your anxiety is short-lived and that the negative consequences you worry about so much rarely come to pass.
There's no way to predict what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you're anxious:
- Get help early. Anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.
- Keep a journal. Keeping track of your personal life can help you and your mental health professional identify what's causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
- Prioritize issues in your life. You can reduce anxiety by carefully managing your time and energy. Make sure that you spend time doing things you enjoy.
- Avoid unhealthy substance use. Alcohol and drug use and even caffeine or nicotine use can cause or worsen anxiety. If you're addicted to any of these substances, quitting can make you anxious. If you can't quit on your own, see your doctor or find a treatment program or support group to help you.
Aug. 29, 2017
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Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)