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Integrated, solution-focussed therapy

Social Anxiety - more than just being shy

01. Nov. 2017 by Valerie Walker

Woman looking at sunset. Photo Pixabay

With the darker nights closing in and the festive season primed to be unwrapped, December should bring another year to a joyous end. But for those who suffer with social phobia or social anxiety disorder, dread rather than excitement can be one of the most prevalent feelings as the Christmas decorations are dusted off and a whirl of social engagements begins to fill the calendar.

Social anxiety disorder extends far beyond being shy or feeling nervous in a group situation, rather it is a crippling condition in which a particular social interaction - or in extreme cases, any form of social interaction - fills the sufferer with anxiety and panic. For many, this intense fear does not dissipate. In fact, it can affect everyday activities, self-confidence, relationships and work or school life. Many people occasionally worry about social situations, but someone with social anxiety disorder feels overly worried before, during and after them.

The disorder can take many guises. There is the social interaction fear (such as meeting friends or going to parties), performance fear (such as giving a presentation in front of others) and observation fear (being seen by others, even just walking down a street in public). Unfortunately, in some cases, sufferers of social phobia can be more likely to suffer another disorder alongside. In fact, Agoraphobia is a common secondary phobia as sufferers may avoid social situations in order to avoid embarrassment, but become housebound by their fear - going out in public becomes a fear in itself.

Whatever social phobia the sufferer has, it shares a common thread - that is, the symptoms that the social phobia sufferer may experience. These range from acute physical symptoms such as racing pulse, palpitations, shaking, blushing, dry mouth, nausea, sweating to psychological indicators such as the mind going “blank.”

These symptoms may be experienced simultaneously or in isolation at different social encounters but can have long-term and negative impacts on the lifestyle of the social phobia sufferer. For instance, sufferers have a tendency to critically analyse each interaction afterwards, not based on what actually happened, but on the sufferer’s negative critique of how he or she felt (reflections may persist for some time after the event and become increasingly negative). This can lead to low self-esteem as the sufferer may believe that he/she “performed” badly in front of others; which can lead to self-consciousness and ultimately social isolation or avoidance of social occasions.

Research estimates that up to 10% of the adult UK population suffer from the condition, with women twice as likely to suffer as men - and experts in the field believe in coming years social phobia suffering will be made much harsher by the nature of the modern world. Yet with so many sufferers among us and the incidence likely to increase, it is incredible that it is estimated that as little as 5-10% seek help for the condition. Crucially, there is no miracle cure available for social anxiety disorder, but there is a terrific range of therapies such as Hypnotherapy, NLP or BWRT that can help you to manage your social anxiety and significantly reduce the adverse impact on your life. A good therapist will work with you to identify the key triggers that provoke your social anxiety and lead to the onset of symptoms. Additionally, through targeted work and while delivering a therapy best suited to you, your therapist will enable you to break down any existing, unhelpful negative thoughts and patterns which are likely driving your anxiety and help you to discover how you can replace them with positive beliefs and behaviours that will allow you to unlock a feeling of self-assuredness, even when faced with the most challenging and complex of social situations such as Christmas and the New Year celebrations.