Do you hate to be the centre of attention? Do you go to great lengths to avoid social interactions? Do you get crippled by the thought of talking to other people, particularly strangers? Are you worried that you might humiliate yourself by saying something embarrassing? Have you ever been obsessively worried about the way you are being perceived by other people?
Do you experience some physiological symptoms, such as shaking, sweating and trembling when talking to others? Do you find it difficult to look people in the eyes when you’re talking to them? Do you turn red or blush? Do you suffer from shortness of breath when talking to other people? Is your heart racing?
If you have answered yes to all or most of the questions above, you most likely suffer from social anxiety. Social anxiety is the fear of social situations and interactions with other people. It is characterized by extremely intense self-consciousness and causes people to feel constantly judged and criticized by others.
If you suffer from social anxiety you believe that all the focus in social interactions is on you. You assume that everyone is always looking at you, talking about you and if they’re laughing then they must be laughing at you. You become obsessed with constant analysing of what you said and how you acted around others.
You can never relax and just enjoy yourself in public. Your fear of being rejected or criticized stops you from talking to others. It might even stop you from going out. Going out to do common tasks, such as shopping, becomes a pure torture as it increases your anxiety. Therefore, you might start to spend more and more time at home, as your home is the only place where you feel comfortable.
You might have days when you find the courage to go out; however, the moment you come home you start to replay and analyse everything you said and did. You over exaggerate it all in your mind. And most of the time your conclusion is that you have failed miserably at your attempt to be sociable as you made a fool of yourself again. And that just reinforces your belief that you are weird and awkward.
You might be aware that your thoughts and actions don’t make rational sense; however, you don’t know how to change them. You won’t seek help, as you don’t want other people to know about your anxiety. You might worry that you will be perceived as different by others and consequently rejected by them. Nevertheless, you don’t have to keep living with social anxiety for the rest of your life. This is your time to get control of your life and to move away from your fear of talking to others.
However, in order to do so you would have to do something that you absolutely hate doing. You would have to talk to a complete stranger; a counsellor, preferably one who uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT has been extremely successful in treatment of social anxiety, mainly because it helps people to change their anxious thoughts, feelings and behaviours. With the help of your counsellor you can learn coping skills that would help you deal with any anxiety-provoking social situations.