If you struggle with social anxiety, regular social interaction can seem overwhelming and terrifying. These feelings can greatly inhibit an individual's ability to succeed and thrive in life. Luckily, however, social anxiety disorder is an extremely treatable condition. The vast majority of those who struggle with social anxiety disorder are able to overcome their struggle with treatment. Here are 3 of the best ways to overcome social anxiety disorder:
- Seek the Help of a Trained Professional
There is no greater tool in an individual's arsenal against social anxiety than the help and guidance of a trained mental health professional. Having studied extensively in the field of mental health, counselors, therapists, and psychologists can all go a long way to helping those who struggle with social anxiety disorder reassess their negative thought patterns and begin the process of breaking away from maladaptive behaviors that continue to reinforce social anxiety. In social anxiety, as with most mental health conditions, the condition is often made worse by excessive bouts of negative thinking, also known as rumination. Rumination serves to reinforce negative beliefs and feelings, and keeps the patient struggling with their anxiety perpetually. Individuals with social anxiety cannot "out-think" the condition-- rather, they must change their behaviors and allow their brains to rewire as a result of their actions. This is extremely difficult to do on one's own, which is why receiving guidance from a trained professional is often so crucial in overcoming social anxiety disorder.
2. Gradually Expose Yourself to Anxiety-Inducing Situations
If you struggle with social anxiety, basic acts of social interaction, such as speaking on the phone or talking to a stranger on the bus, may feel like Herculean tasks. Indeed, a hallmark of anxiety disorders is the tendency to catastrophize, or blow up seemingly normal situations into dangerous affairs in one's mind. While such tasks may seem impossible and unimaginably terrifying to the individual who struggles with social anxiety, doing increasingly frightening things such as these is a key component of overcoming social anxiety disorder. This method of overcoming anxiety, known as "exposure therapy", is one of the most effective ways to overcome anxiety. It also can be one of the most intimidating. By forcing yourself to face your greatest fears, you are training your brain to rewire itself to view frightening things (such as social interaction) as harmless. It is important, however, that exposure therapy be done gradually-- too much too soon (such as speaking to a room of 100 people on the first step) can have the opposite effect and further serve to reinforce the anxiety. Exposure therapy is best undertaken with the guidance of a trained professional who can guide you along the way.
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
3. Use Medication as a Last Resort
While exposure therapy and other forms of talk therapy can be greatly effective in eliminating or reducing social anxiety, for some, medication may be a necessary last step. While the use of medication is often met with fear and skepticism by some, anxiety medications have been shown to be greatly effective in managing severe forms of anxiety. As with any anxiety treatment, the use of medication must be managed by a qualified health professional who can monitor your condition for any complications. Self-medication rarely works, and often comes with greater consequences down the road. While all anti-anxiety medications come with associated side effects, they have never been safer or more effective than they are today. Certain classes of drugs, such as SSRIs (Prozac, Lexapro, etc.) have no addictive potential and have been used to treat anxiety disorders for years. Others, such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, etc.), are known to cause addiction with long-term use. Because of this, it is crucial that you only take medication prescribed by your doctor.