And that girl smiled at me….and I froze….
We all know the feeling of being nervous in a social situation..wherein we do not know too many people. We might have a problem with talking on stage in front of people. We might make a hash during a presentation of a topic in front of an audience…even though we know the content well.
But most people can get through these.
But imagine that the stress of these situations is just too much to handle…wherein you start hyper ventilating, palpitating and breaking out into a cold sweat…or you just freeze!! You become so uncomfortable..that all aspects of your life, not just social ones, fall apart.
Social anxiety might be allowing your voice go to voicemail but not being able to call the person back because the phone is scary…it’s about letting someone call you by the wrong name because you are too scared to correct them!! You order things online so you do not have to go to the shop ..but are too scared to answer the door when the order is being delivered.
Social anxiety disorder is extremely common. It goes way beyond shyness. It may be limited to one-off two particular situations, or in all social situations.
The common situations of stress include talking to strangers, using public restrooms, eating in front of other people. Making eye contact with people, speaking in public or even going for a date!!
Most people with social anxiety talk of an overwhelming fear of being the centre of attention, and being judged and found wanting. They are terrified of saying or doing something inappropriate or something that causes offence…this leads to terrible self-consciousness, and the need to avoid eye contact along with a hesitance to avoid talking to people….hence the typical “wall flower” in parties!
The symptoms of palpitation, breathlessness, light headedness, blushing, crying and cold sweats might happen immediately before an event, or sometimes weeks are spent worrying about it ..with multiple post mortem about the event.
There is known to be a strong genetic basis, and the possibility of having an overactive amygdala..(simplistically the part of the brain that controls the fear response.)
Social anxiety can affect personal relationships, leading to low self esteem, negative thoughts, sensitivity to criticism and poor social skills.
What can be done for social anxiety?
Behavioural therapy along with desensitisation techniques help this situation, along with prescription medications…all of this under the supervision of a psychiatrist. Often a combination of both is necessary to be effective in social situations.
Hippocrates had described symptoms of social anxiety in a patient more than 2000 years ago — “He dare not come in company for fear that he should be misused, disgraced, overshoot himself in gestures or …….