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What causes social anxiety?

Feeling shy and a bit anxious about taking part in a social activity isn’t unusual. However, social anxiety takes things much further. It’s not just being nervous because you have to give a presentation at work; the condition impacts on taking part in everyday activities.

Individuals with social anxiety have an intense dread of being judged by others. There is a real fear of situations in which this may happen and so meeting people, particularly new people, and talking to them becomes difficult. Any activity with other people can trigger it, even something as every day as a trip to the supermarket. It creates excessive apprehension for them in advance and they will continue to worry about it after.

The condition is known by several names. It may be referred to as SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder) and social phobia. But the fear at the heart is always that of being embarrassed or humiliated. This kind of unease will often lead to physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing and speaking in a shaky manner. The worry that these signs will be spotted, and judgements made simply increases their likelihood.

After a social interaction, their own behaviour and that of others will be analysed to see if their perceived flaws were identified and what the reaction was. Unsurprisingly, expectations are always negative with the worse possible consequences anticipated. As a result, any situation involving other people becomes uncomfortable.

Post lockdown anxiety

For those with this condition lockdown has been a period of respite. Mind refers to it as both a blessing and a curse. There have still been group activities, such as Zoom meetings, but the vast majority of social and group activity has ceased during the pandemic. As lockdown restrictions are relaxed mixing with other people again becomes more likely and an even more frightening prospect than before.

Can social anxiety be cured?

While symptoms of social anxiety tend to appear around age thirteen, treatment is generally only sought 15-20 years later. This is despite it being one of the most common and persistent anxiety disorders and one that affects so much of daily life with an impact on work and education. Activities generally thought of as fun, such as eating out, become difficult and unpleasant. Individuals often try to cope with social situations by using alcohol and drugs or simply avoid them as much as possible.

Social anxiety can be treated with a variety of different approaches including talking therapies and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

There is no single cause of the condition but experiencing bullying or other situations where there is humiliation, shame and a lack of control may trigger it. Having a socially anxious family member may also result in you developing social anxiety.

CBT for social anxiety

One of the main aims of CBT is to help you to identify negative and irrational thought patterns and behaviours. This makes it useful in working with the cycle of fear that results from experiencing social anxiety. During treatment, you will work on how you think about yourself. You’ll examine your self-worth, misperceptions of others and look at becoming more assertive. Part of the treatment process will also involve learning coping skills to apply to social situations. Social anxiety can be overcome with therapy and we offer a safe space and a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist who can work with you. This is one of the affordable low-cost counselling options we have available to make counselling and a road to improved emotional wellbeing available to everyone. Don’t wait to get help. Take steps towards getting your life back now.

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