Social Anxiety: More Common Than You May Think
The topic of social anxiety exists with one massive irony. On one hand, many millions struggle with an anxiety disorder in the US. On the other, the crippling effects of social anxiety often make people who experience social anxiety feel like they’re the only ones in the world with such an obstacle.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that “An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year,” and adds that “An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.” This isn’t counting those who silently suffer without being diagnosed or getting the help they need.
For many, the suffocating feelings of isolation can be the most unbearable aspect of it all. In light of that, I wanted to share a few brief moments with you to take you out of the troubling and unnecessary isolation related to social anxiety.
The first thing to keep in mind is that feelings of social anxiety are completely normal. The natural internal dialogue when meeting new people is to ask, “Are these people safe?” That’s a valid and understandable question since people aren’t always safe. But, taken too far, this perfectly healthy and normal defense mechanism can hold us back from connection, success, and fulfillment.
How can you know if your internal defense mechanism is causing all the “bells and whistles” to go off when you should be able to stay calm? That mainly comes down to deciding if your social anxiety is holding you back from greater success or not. Let’s look at several key places where social anxiety shows up.
Social Anxiety at Work and at Play
If I were to do an abbreviated overview of where social anxiety visits us, I’d break it into two key areas (although there are far more subcategories). Social anxiety shows up either at work, play or both. A separate category that could present itself either at work or play is performance anxiety.
Social Anxiety at Work: It’s not tough to see how social anxiety can cripple one’s work performance. It can be the difference between acing or bombing a job interview. It can also prevent you from connecting with co-workers and supervisors to get positive results.
Social Anxiety at Play: As a catch-all, we’ll place anything in this category not directly related to work. This could mean dating anxiety (very common). You may also avoid non-work social gatherings because you’re uncomfortable. This becomes a problem when those social settings could have been important – either for work or social connection – for you, had you pursued them.
Performance Anxiety: Although our culture tends to go right to the bedroom when it comes to performance anxiety, that isn’t the only place it is found. You’ll also find it with public speaking or musical performances, for example. Both of these possibilities could happen either in a work or play setting.
Not About Decimating Social Anxiety but Managing It
One major misconception about social anxiety is that we need to eradicate it. No, we don’t want to do that. As mentioned earlier, some measure of social anxiety is healthy because it can keep us reasonably cautious and safe around others we’re unsure about. But it becomes crippling, when we can’t do what we want because of it.
Do you have an overly active defense mechanism that leads to too much social anxiety? Now, that’s something to work on, but we still wouldn’t want to completely eliminate social anxiety. Just like we wouldn’t want to eliminate someone’s fear response just because it’s overly active!
Could You Use Some Professional Support for Your Social Anxiety?
You don’t need to worry about being an outcast if you visit us. We “get” social anxiety from a personal and professional standpoint. It’s an aspect of being human rather than because we’re “uniquely broken.”
Would you like to learn how to better manage your social anxiety instead of having it control you? Feel free to get in touch with the Center for Neurocognitive Excellence. Thankfully, social anxiety isn’t something you have to just live with. You can learn to manage it, opening up a path to greater life fulfillment.