Living With Social Anxiety

Kaitlyn Kelley, Reporter

With trembling legs and thoughts of insecurity in her head, she walks into the cafeteria. Not knowing where to go or who to sit with, she begins to feel stressed. Her social anxiety begins to kick in. She hears the laughter of girls in her grade, and her palms begin to get sweaty. Little does she know, she is not alone.

According to Thomas A. Richards, a psychologist for the Social Anxiety Institution, seven percent of the population suffers from social anxiety at the present time.

The Social Anxiety Institute is the only treatment center in the world that specializes solely in the treatment of social anxiety. Dr. Thomas A. Richards currently runs all of the treatment programs, and he is a leading clinical authority on the treatment of social anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self consciousness and feelings of being negatively judged. As a result, it can lead to avoidance, embarrassment, and even depression.

According to the Social Anxiety Institution, “In the United States, epidemiological studies have recently pegged social anxiety disorder as the third largest psychological disorder in the country, after depression and alcoholism.”

Social anxiety is not a disorder that goes away overnight. It is a constant, intense anxiety that usually begins in childhood or adolescence. The average developing age is thirteen. It is the crippling fear of being in social situations.

Most people can relate to feeling nervous before giving a presentation or asking someone out on a date, but that does not necessarily mean they have social anxiety. This disorder is very selective. Some people may have an intense fear of talking to a salesman or higher authority, but they may be comfortable with public speaking. It all depends on the person.

People struggling with social anxiety disorder usually experience significant emotional distress when put in the following situations: being introduced to new people, being the center of attention, being watched while doing something, being teased or criticized, interpersonal relationships, and most social encounters.

Not only do people feel fear, but they also feel powerless. Many people believe that the way to get over social anxiety is to just face their fears, but that is not the best solution. People who have been living with social anxiety since they were young have been facing their feelings a little bit every day only to see no change in their habits.

A solution that has been proven to have results according to the Social Anxiety Institution is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a therapy program that addresses dozens of cognitive methods, strategies, and concepts that allow the brain to change. Since the brain is continually learning, irrational thoughts and beliefs can be changed through cognitive therapy.

When searching for support, the Social Anxiety Institution recommends someone who understands the problem that you have or someone that has experience on how to treat it. Once you have found a therapist, make sure to come prepared with questions to allow the therapist to clearly understand the problem.

If your therapist gives advice as to just “face your fears and they will go away”, it may be time to find a new therapist that further understands the dynamics of social anxiety.

Overcoming social anxiety is not an easy task, but it is not impossible.