Social anxiety – overcoming shyness

Social anxiety – overcoming shyness

28 Feb

*This newsletter is intended to offer information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from those broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problem. Copyright 2018 Simmonds Publications: 550 La Jolla Blvd., 306, La Jolla, CA 92037

Ask people what they fear the most and many of them will answer, speaking in public. In surveys that ask people about their fears, about one person in five reports, an extreme fear of public speaking. Shyness and other forms of social anxiety are common, and they prevent people from fully experiencing life.

Shyness refers to the tendency to withdraw from people, particularly people who are unfamiliar. Everyone has some degree of shyness, in fact, a person without any shyness at all is probably one who does not make good judgments about maintaining appropriate boundaries between people. A bit of shyness is a good thing. But when a high level of shyness prevents a person from engaging in normal, social interactions, from functioning, while at work, or from developing intimate relationships, it presents a problem, which, fortunately, can be alleviated.

Shyness is one form of the broader term, social anxiety. This concept, also known as social phobia, refers to a special kind of anxiety that people feel when they are around other people. It is associated with concerns about being scrutinized. Shyness and social anxiety are closely related, but social anxiety includes other situations, such as speaking in public, taking tests, sports performance, and dating. Closely related to the concepts of shyness and social anxiety are embarrassment and shame. Embarrassment is what a person feels when something unexpected happens and drives unwanted attention (such as knocking over a glass of water in a restaurant). This creates a temporary feeling of discomfort. Shame on the other hand is longer lasting. Shame is a feeling that comes from being disappointed in oneself.

Who are the people most likely to suffer from social anxiety? Parents recognize some children are easily frightened from birth on and cry. A great deal, well, others seem more resilient by temperament, they seldom cry, hardly ever get upset, and are less easily frightened. Children love to explore the world around them. Others are cautious and don’t tolerate change well. Children who are inhibited are more likely to have a parent with social anxiety disorder. An anxious person is more likely to have a parent or sibling who suffers from depression. Many people with social anxiety disorder report having one or both parents who have a substance abuse problem, such as drinking, or come from a family and which:

  1. There is substantial conflict between the adults,
  2. Parents are overly critical of the children, or things are never good enough,
  3. There is excessive concern about what other people think.

National surveys find that about 5% of children and adolescents suffer from social anxiety disorder. Children with an anxiety problem seldom report that they are feeling anxious. Instead, they report the presence of physical symptoms, which include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, blushing, dizziness, And shortness of breath. They try to avoid the following situations: speaking in class, taking test, reading aloud, writing on the board, inviting friends, over to play, eating in front of others, going to parties, and playing sports. Children and adolescence with social anxiety disorder may go onto develop other related problems, such as loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem. Although some children overcome their shyness in time, as interactions with others, caused their fear to dissipate, others will experience worsening of symptoms. If a child shows symptoms by the age of six that have not improved by the age of 10, it is probably time to seek professional intervention.

The single most important strategy for overcoming social anxiety is to face your fear. Get back on the horse again. Take the car out for a drive once more. Go swimming again. Get back on an airplane. Give another speech before an audience. Go to another dinner party. Ask somebody else to go out on a date. Managing your physical symptoms and changing your thinking do little good unless you come to terms with your fears by getting back into anxiety provoking situation doing this takes courage. Avoiding it perpetuates the problem.