As someone who used to suffer with social anxiety, I know first hand the struggles that come along with it and the misconceptions other people can have that make it all the harder to cope with. The more sufferers and others can learn about social anxiety, the better it will be for everyone.
1. It isn’t that common
Anxiety in all it’s forms is something that isn’t often talked about, but social anxiety is really common. It’s thought to affect around 7% of the population, according the The Social Anxiety Association.
In all the people that I’ve spoken to about social anxiety, knowing that they are not alone is one of the most important things to understand in order to start feeling better.
2. It’s just ‘shyness’
Saying social anxiety is just ‘shyness’ can massively downplay the effect it can have on peoples lives. It can cause a huge sense of dread for even the simplest of everyday activities such as going to the shops, meeting people, talking on the phone and going to work. It can affect work, relationships and almost any situation where other people are involved. Even if you feel a bit shy sometimes it doesn’t mean you have social anxiety.
Letting people know the extent to which it affects you could help people to understand that it’s more than just shyness.
3. People can just snap out of it
Often people without social anxiety can’t understand or relate to people that do have it. They think you can just ‘snap out of it’ ‘be more confident’ or ‘stop worrying’ but it’s not that simple. If people could snap out of it, they would!
It’s really unhelpful to be told something like this when you’re really suffering and can’t find a way out of it. Try to be understanding and remember that as human beings, we all struggle with something.
Remembering that people often find it hard to relate to what anxiety feels like and sharing articles like this one with them can help them to get a better understanding of social anxiety.
4. It’s a permanent condition
Social anxiety is not permanent, many types of therapy are effective including CBT. If you suffer with social anxiety, definitely seek some help from a therapist or your doctor and don’t suffer alone!
5. It’s caused by your genetics
Genetics can play a role however social anxiety can also be linked back to the way we are brought up be our parents. Being criticized a lot, having parents that worry too much or being told to ‘beware of strangers’ as children have all been linked to increased chances of social anxiety. Often it’s something that we learn as children, which means we can ‘unlearn’ it too and therefore social anxiety is treatable.
Thinking about things that you might have been told as a child can be helpful in aiding you to understand where your thoughts and feelings came from.
6. They’re being rude
Those with social anxiety often want to make friends and have social connections but they fear criticism or making a mistake and therefore hold themselves back and can sometimes appear rude or aloof.
Practice being friendly with other people and reach out to them to let them know that you do want their friendship.
7. They have a fear of public speaking
Many people with social anxiety would fear public speaking but it encompasses much more than that, making it difficult for individuals to do simple things like going shopping or going to work.
If you fear public speaking start off with something very small and supportive and build you way up to bigger talks. Remember at least that most people can relate to a fear of public speaking and that people are often very understanding, even if things don’t go exactly as you would want.
8. They need to go on medication
Sometimes medication may be helpful and it is always best to speak to your doctor before embarking on any kind of treatment. The doctor will also be able to rule out any other possible health problems or other kinds of anxiety.
9. If you have social anxiety, you’re weak
Social anxiety is incredibly common and does not make you any less of a person. Social anxiety can happen to anyone and does to people of all ages, genders and backgrounds.You are not ‘broken’, you are still good enough. It’s just that this is something that you are working through at the moment.
Remind yourself of all the challenges that you’ve overcome in your life, the things you have achieved and the times you have helped other people. Doing this helps you to remember that you are a valuable and worthwhile and capable human being.
10. You should avoid social situations if you have social anxiety
In fact, the opposite can be true. Often when we avoid things, the anxiety becomes worse when we eventually have to face them. When we do things we are anxious about and prove to ourselves that we can survive and cope with them, we increase our confidence and often reduce the levels of anxiety. This should be done with the help of a therapist however.
I hope this has busted some myths about social anxiety for you. If you have social anxiety remember than you are not alone and this issue is treatable. Please don’t suffer in silence.
Featured photo credit: 123 RFStock photo via calmer-you.com