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Social anxiety is one of the most common anxiety problems encountered
While social interactions are a normal part of human life, for some they are a source of anxiety. Our mental wellbeing advisor, Marianna Kilburn, explains what this disorder is and how it can be managed.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is when a person finds social events trigger worry, anxiety or fear. They will dread any form of social interaction and will make a lot of effort in order to minimise being involved in social situations.
This form of anxiety can develop into social phobia which is when a person feels completely unable to face any form of social interaction. This may lead to the sufferer becoming reclusive, unable to venture outside the house or hold down a job.
Social anxiety is experienced by many ‘normal’ people to a certain extent. It is common among children growing up as they become exposed to more and more social situations such as going to school or meeting other children in the neighbourhood playground. Children affected may be described as being shy.
Often social anxiety recurs during the teenage years when hormonal changes are taking place with the added stress of moving to new schools or leaving home for University. These forms of social anxiety usually settle. However, for some, the condition never really goes away, plaguing them into adulthood.
What are the symptoms of social anxiety?
Many different situations can trigger social anxiety. These range from a specific event such as being nervous before giving a talk to feeling anxious in a large party for fear of being judged because of appearance.
Some of the most common symptoms and indications of social anxiety include:
- A dread of social activities, meeting people, talking on the phone or going to the shops
- Thinking incessantly about an upcoming social event and dwelling on all the things that might go wrong
- Avoiding social interactions and not making eye-to-eye contact when speaking to someone
- Fearing being judged, criticised or humiliated
- Children may freeze, cry or throw a tantrum if put in a social situation with which they are not comfortable
- Experiencing panic attacks during a social situation.
What treatments are there?
If your symptoms are mild to moderate in severity, you may find herbal remedies to be of benefit:
- Herbs such as Valerian have natural tranquilising properties and help you relax in social situations
- Avena sativa, also known as oats, is a herb which is traditionally used as a nerve tonic and is useful for mild anxiety
- There is also a range of flower essences such as Confidence Essence or Emergency Essence, which combine a variety of herbs to help in specific situations.
Herbal remedies may also be used together with other types of treatments such as talking therapies or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). These forms of treatment help the individual change thinking habits, patterns and behaviour.
The therapist will often expose the patient to a situation he fears in order to teach him how to overcome the problem. These types of therapies are often very successful and have lasting results, although they require patience and persistence to be effective.
If these remedies and treatments have not been effective then you are likely to be suffering from a more severe form of social anxiety which will need to be treated by a doctor. The doctor will discuss with you any conventional treatments which he thinks will help with your condition. These may include anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medicines.