How to deal with social anxiety?

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Arlathina, Aug 15, 2015.

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  1. First and foremost, I want to say that I am not the stereotypical sufferer of social anxiety. I am not terrified by the thought of any social interaction. In most cases, I am actually a pretty big social butterfly. However, there are certain situations that send me into into fits of social anxiety: sports-related events, parties, and anywhere where there is bound to be large amounts of people for extended periods of time. And, sometimes, I feel as though I experience social anxiety/anxiety attacks for no apparent reason. However, these episodes are far and few between.

    For instance, if I have a swim meet coming up, I start to experience bad social anxiety. Even just thinking about it gives me social anxiety. I experience symptoms like shortness of breath, pain in my chest and stomach, a sinking feeling in my chest/stomach, inability to move around. I also sometimes experience symptoms like this when I think about the future. It is honestly one of the worst feelings that I could ever describe, and I think I could use help managing it.

    So, what I am asking is, what is something you do to attempt to calm yourself down when you find yourself having these sorts of feelings? I would greatly appreciate any tips/advice that you can provide.

    Disclaimer: I have not seen a psychologist/therapist and been diagnosed with social anxiety. I think mental illness is a serious problem and if you do think that you suffer from any type of mental illness, then you should seek out the help of a licensed professional in the mental health field.
  2. It sounds to me like you might have non-generalized social anxiety. I'd still suggest you see a professional about it, it'll help a lot.

    And I'm speaking from personal experience, so don't quote me on any of this. It might work for some, it might not. I'm no professional, but I've lived with this for many a year. It's also mostly about how to deal with the anxiety once it's there and about to turn into an anxiety/panic attack.

    But, when I feel that the anxiety is getting out of control, grounding myself, with breathing exercises or some object I can fiddle with, helps a ton. Focusing on one thing 100% doesn't leave room for your brain to run off on worst-case scenarios, and it slows the influx of negative thoughts. Removing oneself from the situation also helps, but in the long run it can lead to avoidance and even increased anxiety. But it's important to have room to breathe.

    That said, breathing exercises might sound cliche, but they're really helpful. Taking control of your breathing doesn't just give you something to focus on, it gives a feeling of control. This is particularly effective if the anxiety comes from a fear of losing or not being in control. Controlling your breathing effects the body as well as the mind.

    Another thing I do is to distance myself from the situation, mentally. On occasion, thinking about it from the viewpoint of someone else, for example a character in a show or something (mine being Shepard from Mass Effect), might help you assess the situation with some emotional distance. By thinking something like "well, Shepard punched a giant death alien in the face, stuff like this doesn't even matter to him, so why should it matter to me? If he can do that, I can do this thing, because it's my giant death alien and I'm gonna punch it in the face". It sounds weird as hell, but for me it works fairly well. It's a sort of "What Would X Do" thing.

    In the long run, CBT (Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy) is a very effective way of mastering your anxiety. I took it myself, and if you really decide to go through with it, discomfort be damned, it works wonders. Changing your thought process and the way you act and feel in certain situations is, by far, the most effective way of dealing with anxiety. At least according to me, but then again. It's also important to pinpoint the source of the anxiety, to be able to work with it. I think that, logically most people with anxiety know that there is no actual danger, but their body reacts on its own, or by some perceived threat. Isolating that reason is the best way of working it out and changing the way you react to it.

    But, like I said, see a professional. It's entirely possible to develop anxiety about having anxiety. It should be said that living a life entirely without anxiety is impossible, but when it stops you from doing things and living your life to its fullest, that's when you should try to get help.

    If this makes nada sense, my apologies. Haven't slep much, so it might be less than understandable.
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    I too have social anxiety. x___x It used to be super bad where I couldn't even deal with checkout counters and cashiers or even talking to the pizza man. .__.; Now I am just stuck with telephones and large groups of strangers.

    WHAT I DO!

    Breathe. Deeeeeep breathes. Count them too. Any time you feel yourself starting to freak, stop, deep breathes and count them. Counting helps with the...

    FOCUS! Focus on anything BUT the people. Don't think about the people. Focus on your breathing. Focus on the one person with you that you know. Focus on noticing what kind of cool food is there. Focus on everyone's pants and see how many different kinds of pants you can spot. Thinking about all the people and what they might be thinking about you is what most social anxiety stems from. So avoid thinking about everyone as people with brains that are thinking. O_O They are just things you can count or notice cool stuff about.

    and finally

    ROLEPLAY! Yes! Even in real life! Play pretend. You're not at the party as a socially awkward person. You're SUPER SPY and your mission is to discover which person in the place has the most hideous facial hair, because that guy is probably a super villain. Super Hard Bonus Challenge: engage super villain in polite conversation. It's even more fun when you get your friends/family in on it. O_O Then you're all playing a little game and you're not so hung up on the big group of people.
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  4. Imagine everyone's naked.

    Yeah okay, maybe not.

    Seriously, though. Breathing exercises are key, as pointed out already. Try meditation as well. Not in places you actually get anxious, of course, but outside of it in a safe time and spot. This will help you find and determine a 'centre' which will be a useful reference in more difficult situations. Basically, practice that and breathing at home. If you can associate that with peace of mind, it might be easier to reach for that state at such events.

    Other than that, I think Diana is giving some real solid advice you should listen to. I'm sort of oblivious to social anxiety, so it's hard for me to give you anything but basic tips, but that sounds pretty good to me.
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  5. It made perfect sense. Thank you for taking the time to answer my thread. I'll take your advice into consideration.

    Thank you, Diana. Your advice reminds me of a certain meditation technique that forces you to objectively distance yourself from people by hearing noise but not interacting with it. Hard to explain since it is kind of quite different, but I thank you for your advice anyways. It actually made me laugh, so thank you.

    Thank you for taking the time to write a response, Kestrel. I appreciate it. :)
  6. I do have anxiety, but it's more centered around time limits rather than interaction. But, I have some advice.
    • Talk to someone you can trust.
    • Meditate
    • Learn Yoga
    • Learn relaxation exercises
    • Talk to a professional
    • Do something you enjoy.
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  7. I have bad anxiety myself and my panic attacks tend to be extreme (one hour and 45 minutes of non-stop panic and hyper ventilation, I don't recommend it -___- made me unable to do anything functional beyond the basics for a week. Worst panic attack I've ever had!).

    What helps for me (if it helps) is breathing, music and space. Getting my breathing back under control is my number 1 priority. Deep, slow breaths. Lots of oxygen. It can help prevent the panic from actually setting through and turning into a full blown attack. Not always, but most of the time.

    Music helps to keep me focused. It serves as a distraction and helps to make me think about things that won't cause panic. Because music also works for giving me inspiration for stories, this works wonders for me, and it's why, when I do have to leave the house, I won't go without my head phones.

    Lastly, space. If something like this happens at a public place or at work, I always try to find a place where there aren't a lot of people, or preferably no people at all. At work I either use my boss' office or the small cafeteria outside of breaks. If I'm trying to get myself back into a state of calm, I can't have people constantly walking around, looking at me and inquiring if I'm alright. They mean well, but it doesn't work!
    I guess you could say that means I'm avoiding things, but I need the space, until I'm calm enough to face people again.

    Find distraction, play a game, watch a movie, whatever helps to draw your mind away from the source of panic and give it a chance to relax.

    Also, talk to a professional. Therapies didn't work for me, but it does for most people and it's definitely worth the try.
  8. It's difficult for me to get info on social anxiety, nobody seems to truly know what it is, just what it does -.-

    From everything I was able to piece together, it's sounding like a brain/sensory overload of sorts. If that's the case, then I would imagine a possible cure to it is kinda like how you get over fears, expose yourself to the bad things in low dosages until you're not effected too much, and then just expose yourself slowly and slowly to worse and worse things till eventually your brain gets use to it and it won't overload anymore.

    So for example, say you hate crowds. Go to a small crowd, try to deal with it for a time, and then go home before your anxiety attack, do breathing/meditation/whatever, and in theory, the next day you'll be able to tolerate it a bit more, and a week/month from that point, you should be able to handle that small crowd with no, or little problem. And then you upgrade to a bigger crowd, rinse and repeat.

    Of course inbetween sessions do what above people say and do those breathing exercises/meditation and stuff. Those seem like temporary cures to me, and temporary cures are perfect as cool down methods for attempting to overcome it completely, or as much as your body/brain may allow.
    #8 Shadon Xarian, Aug 27, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
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