As lockdown restrictions lift across the UK, people are slowly starting to reconnect outside of their bubble and catching occasional sun!
There is one thing that has become apparent within our communities, the slight apprehension to meet up due to feelings of anxiety.
There are so many reasons why people might not be jumping for joy at being invited to gatherings for example:
They might be physically burned out with day to day life such as studying or work
Their personal life may be hectic as they are parents or carers
They might feel overwhelmed due to certain media coverage that has heightened their anxiety
They may not feel the urge to meet up as they prefer staying indoors
They might be going through certain things that they are not comfortable sharing
I feel it's normal to have unease, considering we had no choice but to adapt to ever-changing covid regulations - our new normal.
I have had quite a few conversations in the past week or so about the difference between generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and being someone who suffers from a social anxiety disorder (SAD).
This blog post will share information on what SAD is and what symptoms may look like.
*Please note this post is for educational purposes and should not be used as a substitute for medical help.
So what is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations.
It's a common problem that usually starts during the early teenage years.
It can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life.
For some people, it gets better as they get older. But for many people, it does not go away on its own without treatment.
Symptoms of social anxiety
Social anxiety is more than shyness. It's a fear that does not just go away and affects everyday activities.
Many people occasionally worry about social situations, but someone with social anxiety feels overly worried before, during and after them.
You may have social anxiety if you:
worry about everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, working or shopping.
avoid or worry a lot about social activities, such as group conversations, eating with company and parties
always worry about doing something you think is embarrassing, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent
find it difficult to do things when others are watching – you may feel like you're being watched and judged all the time
fear being criticised, avoiding eye contact or have low self-esteem
often have symptoms like feeling sick, sweating, trembling or palpitations
have panic attacks, where you have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, usually only for a few minutes.
People with social anxiety may struggle more in scenarios where they need to be evaluated.
Many people with social anxiety also have other mental health issues, such as depression, generalised anxiety and panic disorder.
Personal testimony shared by a forum member
"The thing that pisses me off about people that don't understand social anxiety, is that for them it's just fear and that we are a bunch of cowards.
For example, their opinion might be " oh you're afraid of heights? Why don't you just stand on a skyscraper to face your fears?"
In reality that could be extremely traumatic for us both emotionally and physically.
Most mental health conditions have anxiety as one of their symptoms, so I feel it is detrimental to have a compassionate health professional dealing with such matters.
People who don't understand the condition may make you feel like you have hypochondria.
Some people may call us names, stigmatizing us and expecting us to be magically cured, I feel that is insensitive and cruel.
As a child, my mother would punish me for being socially awkward and introverted which impacted me greatly in adult life.
Social anxiety has impacted my professional life, I have often not applied for promotions I deserved out of fear of being the one people have to turn to.
I am ambitious but my condition currently blocks me from growing further, I hate using the phone as I tend to stutter or get nervous.
I hate presentations, as I often get palpitations that lead to obvious excessive breathing.
I'm afraid to do workshops out of fear of publicly messing up, it's very exhausting.
I have avoided certain things that are important for my personal growth.
I have also avoided meeting health professionals due to past encounters that left me feeling emotionally raw."
Things you can try to overcome social anxiety
Self-help can help reduce social anxiety and you might find it a useful first step before trying other treatments.
The following tips may help:
try to understand more about your anxiety – by thinking and writing down what goes through your mind?
finding out your triggers ( is it certain places that make your symptoms worse? Is it being around certain people? Do you need to create new boundaries?
try some relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga and breathing exercises
break down challenging situations into smaller parts and work on feeling more relaxed with each part
try to focus on what people are saying rather than just assuming the worst
How to get help for social anxiety
It's a good idea to speak to a close friend or family member if you are struggling to contact a health professional.
Some people actually prefer peer support rather than professional therapy, speaking with people who may have experienced and overcome the same issues can be very beneficial.
Asking for help can be difficult, but a GP will be aware that many people struggle with social anxiety and will try to put you at ease.
They'll ask you about your feelings, behaviors and symptoms to find out about your anxiety in social situations.
If you are diagnosed with SAD, the health professional will refer you to a service that can help you move forward.
You can also refer yourself directly to an NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT)
I wrote this for people who may be feeling alone, You may feel alone but there are so many others feeling the same. We stand with you. Please try not to suffer in silence as it will do more harm than good.
Take care and stay safe x