Everyone - even the most social people - has some degree of worry or discomfort about being around other people.
When the discomfort becomes intensely distressful or starts to interfere with your life, it could be social anxiety.
You might avoid social situations as much as you can. You might feel really uncomfortable or self-conscious talking to strangers, making eye contact, or entering parties. Starting conversations or making small talk can be a nightmare.
Most socially anxious people dread social situations due to fears about being judged by others, being embarrassed and showing it, or accidentally offending someone. Some people dread performance situations in which humiliation or embarrassment could happen - ex. speaking in a meeting or giving a presentation.
Some of the physical symptoms can manifest as nausea, sweating, blushing, or trembling. Your heart may race, or you might get an upset stomach.
Without treatment, social anxiety can continue indefinitely. Most people with social anxiety have experienced symptoms for over 10 years before searching for a therapist. Social anxiety can feel incredibly isolating, which can make it hard to find help.
Treatment for Social Anxiety
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the "gold standard" for treating anxiety, encourages people to transform their negative thoughts and feelings. The main goal of CBT is to identify irrational beliefs and thought patterns and replace them with positive ones that are actually believable. This is not just trying to "think positive", as friends may have suggested to you. If it were that simple, you would have kicked social anxiety to the curb years ago!
Your brain has become used to thinking negatively and anxiously. It takes practice and repetition - every day - to train yourself to think in a new way.
As your core beliefs change, so does how you see the world around you. With more and more practice, you can expect to experience long-lasting improvement of anxiety symptoms and a stronger sense of well-being.
A sense of belonging and connection are key human needs - just like the need for food or shelter. When you're able to overcome social anxiety, being with people can actually be fun and enjoyable. Your health and happiness exponentially improve.