How to Overcome Social Anxiety

Anxiety is a universally understood feeling. It can surface from stressful situations, but it can also appear with no identifiable cause. Social anxiety is a common type of anxiety that causes an individual to feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed in social situations. If you struggle with social anxiety, you need to know that there are ways to overcome it. When it comes to recovery, social anxiety may present itself as you navigate new, sober interactions with others. Once you better understand how your social anxiety functions, you will be better able to address it and identify safe situations where you can learn to overcome it.

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is a diagnosable mental health condition, although many people experience mild forms. It is a common type of anxiety disorder that causes an individual to feel distressing symptoms of anxiety or fear in social situations. These situations may include: 

  • Meeting new people
  • Answering a question during class
  • Getting on the bus
  • Having to talk to a cashier at the grocery store
  • Dating
  • Drinking or eating in front of others
  • Using public restrooms

Social anxiety in recovery may present itself with more intense challenges. Many individuals that struggle with social anxiety fear doing everyday things in front of others out of fear of being rejected or judged. Social anxiety disorder causes a person to lack control over their fears and worries, even if they seem irrational to others. Because of this, people with social anxiety disorder may experience difficulties with their daily functioning, like attending work or school, causing them to isolate. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms that commonly occur in individuals with the condition to overcome social anxiety.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

An individual with social anxiety disorder may present themselves differently when they are around others. If you are close with someone with social anxiety, you may find it difficult to recognize symptoms. When around others, the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Being overly self-conscious, embarrassed, or awkward
  • Feelings of nausea or stomach aches
  • Blushing, sweating, or trembling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Limited or no eye contact when speaking with others
  • Fearing social situations, especially when it involves meeting new people
  • Fearing being judged or obsessing over what others may think
  • Isolating completely from social situations

Understanding the Causes of Social Anxiety

Now that you understand what social anxiety is and looks like, it is essential to understand what contributes to the condition. Like many other mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder may run in families. Another consideration is that underdeveloped social skills may play a role, recognizing that the misreading of others' behavior in the past may contribute to worsening social anxiety. 

If you are learning how to enjoy social situations while in recovery, you may find it difficult to remain calm while staying sober. To identify what factors play a role in your subjective social anxiety, consider the root causes of your feelings of fear and anxiety. Root causes can develop at any time, although they typically happen during the developmental stages of adolescence. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Was I bullied as a kid for the way I acted or the things I said?
  • What is my history of emotional, mental, or physical abuse?
  • Was I teased for my beliefs growing up?
  • What parenting style did my parents use on me? Were they controlling or overbearing, causing me to be hyper-focused on the way I act towards others?
  • Who were my friends growing up?
  • Do I ever feel validated for who I am as a person today?
  • Do I have irrational fears? Where did these fears develop?
  • What step can I take today to help overcome my social anxiety?

How to Overcome Social Anxiety

You have been given the necessary reflection tools to help you identify the causes of your social anxiety. The next step is understanding that treatment will not necessarily be a comfortable experience, although it is crucial in order for you to heal. There are numerous psychotherapy treatment options available as well as medications that may help you with uncontrollable and overwhelming feelings of anxiety. Options of therapy for social anxiety may include:

  • Social skills training can help you develop verbal and nonverbal skills essential to understand when interacting with others. Social skills training will involve role-playing, exposure, and rehearsal with a mental health professional.
  • Exposure therapy, where you are gradually exposed to fearful stimuli and other situations to help you reduce anxiety through habituation.
  • Cognitive therapy, where you will work to identify and transform irrational beliefs and thoughts that negatively affect your social anxiety.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, where you will work through a combination of exposure and cognitive therapy processes to restructure harmful thought patterns that keep you from healing. CBT may be the most effective approach to healing from social anxiety disorder.

If you have a co-occurring disorder, such as active addiction, or are recovering from addiction, it is essential to get help for your conditions simultaneously. The cause of your addiction could contribute to your social anxiety and vice versa. The best thing you can do for yourself is to engage in sober social situations whenever you feel comfortable in order to train your mind to interact and enjoy the company of others. Address and transform your fears, and understand that your own mind is your biggest limit!

Social anxiety is a mental health condition that interferes with an individual's ability to interact and engage in social situations. People may suffer severely from social anxiety, causing them to isolate and withdraw from school and work. In order to overcome this particular kind of anxiety, it is essential to recognize signs and symptoms, identify potential causes, and work towards creating healthier coping mechanisms for anxious times. There are treatment options available, such as cognitive-behavioral and exposure therapy, that will help you to address irrational and harmful thought patterns that limit your ability to function socially. Therapeutic treatments and medicated options are also available to help you overcome unpleasant feelings of fear and overwhelm. At South Florida Intervention, we understand that social anxiety can surface from new beginnings in recovery journeys. We want to be a reliable system of support as you navigate sobriety. Call us today at (202) 390-2273.