Anxiety refers to an intense feeling of fear or worry, often about something that has yet to take place.
Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives, but it doesn’t always mean you live with the condition.
But when anxiety significantly impacts your daily life and the way you interact with the world, it’s possible you could have an anxiety disorder.
There’s more than one type of anxiety, though. Symptoms are often quite similar, but the root of the anxiety may differ.
When you experience anxiety unexpectedly or in more than one situation, you may be living with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
“Social anxiety [ … ] specifically refers to anxiety experienced in relation to social situations,” emphasizes Tynessa Franks, PhD, a clinical psychologist offering small-group therapy and classes for folks living with the condition.
Social anxiety isn’t the same as shyness.
“If a person is avoiding experiences that are meaningful or important in some way because of social anxiety, it starts to enter disorder territory,” says Franks.
Other features of social anxiety include:
- intense fear around social situations, often disproportional to the circumstances
- intense fear and worry about what others think of you and being perceived negatively
- physical symptoms that can involve rapid heart rate, dizziness, or hyperventilating
- a tendency to avoid all social situations due to fear
- persistent irrational thoughts about social situations, including being observed
- symptoms persist for more than 6 months
It’s possible to manage social anxiety. You can deal with anxiety at work, school, or social events by implementing a few tips. It might not happen from one day to another, but it’s possible.
Working with a mental health professional can help even more. They can help you explore the possible causes of your symptoms. They can also help you develop skills to face your fears without experiencing strong emotional or physical reactions.
1. Consider that your anxiety is a protective response
Anxiety can be informative. It may be trying to warn you of danger. In this sense, anxiety serves a purpose.
When you perceive a threat, your brain alerts you so that you can prepare to face or avoid said danger, explains Samantha Kingma, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Remembering that anxiety is a natural and protective response could help you reframe the situation. Once you start experiencing the symptoms of anxiety, try to gently tell yourself that your body is protecting you, and now that you’re alert, you’ll be safe.
2. Facing your fears may help
Avoidance may feel safe, but it may not be helping you overcome anxiety. You may feel like you have to wait until …….