Social phobia: what is it and how to treat it?
Social phobia is an exaggerated fear of being judged by others, to the point that this feeling is a hindrance in daily activities.
Feeling fear or shame is normal and, although it may not seem like it, it is also healthy. It is something that everyone suffers at some point because the situation is that demanding or simply because they are shy in nature: the fear of expressing an opinion in public, of looking ridiculous ... Recognising that fear is the first and fundamental step to changing ourselves.
"Doubt is one of the names for intelligence" Jorge Luis Borges
But if these feelings make you fall into a "vicious circle" or take up too much time and energy in your life, maybe it's time to take a step forward and control these emotions. Assuming and accepting them is something essential to stop them from hurting you.
We need negative emotions
You should not be afraid of these feelings. After all, these are emotions that have allowed us to survive in situations of risk since time immemorial. In other words, we need them to live, to be complete human beings.
However, if anxiety fear and worry prevent you from developing your abilities and taking advantage of the opportunities that are offered, you have to put a stop to this social insecurity. Some of these symptoms can put you on guard:
- Dizziness, tachycardia, excessive sweating, extreme nausea or nervousness in certain situations, such as speaking in public, feeling the centre of attention or with certain thoughts.
- Worry or restlessness practically every day.
- Frequent negative anticipatory thoughts.
- Getting tired easily.
- Having difficulty concentrating.
Once the problem is found, how do we go on?
A chance to change
The next step is to be very aware that your phobia is not a disadvantage, but an opportunity to transform, improve, be wiser and love yourself more. You have to experience a whole range of emotions to appreciate life in all its dimensions; and sometimes, life deals out both good and bad.
You can turn your fears into a chance to do more of everything you love as you set out to try out new activities and ways of focusing on life. You can channel it through exercises of emotional expression or expose yourself gradually to your fears by daring to do different things. You can start new activities: sport, theatre, etc.
The reorganisation of life that requires fighting social fear provides the perfect opportunity to acquire new tools, to open new doors and to develop new emotional traits that will surely bring many side effects ... but very positive ones.
Seeing what is positive in fear
There are several tools that can help you deal with fear. For starters, self-help books can be a good complement to start work on, as well as the disciplines of relaxation and physical exercise. These are ideas and resources that are there to help you at any time.
With regard to books, there are many good ones, for example the Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook, by Martin M. Antony and Richard P. Swinson, published by Desclée De Brouwer. It is a mild and practical book that offers both a perfect scientific description and a programme to overcome anxiety.
Focusing on the present is fundamental if you want to leave the theory and put it into practice. But if you need more, there are also techniques to curb anxiety:
- Make lists to help you rationalise your fears.
- Practise deep breathing: although it requires some technique, it is something you can do practically anywhere. Remember to practise ventral breathing, not through the chest, and do it slowly and deeply. Do not be in a hurry to exhale and do it at least five consecutive times, whether in a reserved space on the floor, in your home, or anywhere in a more subtle way, for example while working in your office.
- Rely on family and good friends to get out of negative thoughts: they are the right people to express your opinions, concerns and emotions to; everything that is so difficult to express to strangers or in alien surroundings. The worst thing that can happen is that you strengthen your ties with them.
- But perhaps the essential thing is to change your point of view: to recognise and accept your own fears, to assimilate them as part of you, to be aware that not every moment in life has to be comfortable and pleasant and to pose difficulties as a challenge.
"The great discovery of my generation was that humans can alter their lives by altering their mental attitudes" (William James)
Combining these factors is the best weapon to prevent negative feelings from taking control of your life and to become more aware of how far you can go. Why don’t you give it a try?