Is social anxiety a disorder? How many times have you asked yourself that question because of your shyness? When you are extremely shy and avoid social situations, preferring to be on your own versus in a crowd, it is possible you would start thinking that you have a “disorder” that somehow you are not “normal.” Other people might view you as abnormal because you have trouble conversing in a crowd, which to you is two people. But, don’t get down because there is no reason to think that you are anything other than normal. Being an introvert is often powerful, more so than the charismatic extrovert, in certain situations. We will explore all the reasons why extreme shyness or social anxiety is powerful and not something to ruin your life.
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Social Anxiety per Psychologists
Yes, there is a psychological disorder named Social Anxiety. The DSM-5 revised edition defines it as such:
● A person with social anxiety fears social situations, often more than one, where people they do not know will be and they fear being under study.
● A feared situation will bring on a panic attack.
● The person suffering understands their response is excessive.
● The person avoids the situation.
● Avoidance, anticipating anxiety or stress is feared, and the person will find their normal routine, job, relationships, or social activities are affected by the phobia.
● The anxiety is persistent, existing for over six months.
If your social avoidance leads to performance trouble at work, in social situations, and in your relationships, then you may need to seek counseling to help you overcome your fears. When you feel your breathing is constricted, your throat is closing, develop hives, and feel faint or faint due to your fear, then you will want to combat your social anxiety as a disorder. If you feel, your response to situations that involve being social is unreasonable or excessive, then consider finding help to learn how to deal with these emotions.
Fear and anxiety in social situations can be natural; however, it is when your normal routine or life are adversely affected that social anxiety becomes problematic.
For example, if you work in a customer service position and cannot say “hello” to a person who walked into the place you work because you immediately enter a panic attack, this is when your social anxiety is affecting your life and needs to be addressed. Being young and being self-conscious when you talk to a new girl because you find her attractive is natural and normal.
Photo by Fernando @cferdo on Unsplash
Do Not Let Social Anxiety Get the Better of You
If you suffer from social anxiety or feel it is more “extreme shyness” you have the opportunity to work on your natural inclinations and face your “fear.” Is social anxiety a disorder that will rule your life? No, not if you stand strong and work on discovering management techniques.
You can manage your shyness through mental or journaling techniques. Most of us, who suffer from social anxiety learn to adapt, hide, and manage our natural inclinations. You can too, if you are willing.
- Using a journal or picturing a recent situation in your head, describe the moment of fear, and what brought it on. Why did you feel discomfort? Did you have a panic attack or was it nearly an attack?
- What did you do in the situation? How did you react or attempt to control the attack? Did you try to control it or let it happen?
- Based on the recent experience, what are five things you could do differently if the same situation occurred?
Carry the list around with you or repeat the five things over in your mind. When you face a social situation again, look at the list or repeat the five things in your head before you approach the social setting.
The key to social anxiety is maintaining control of the things you can control. It might sound simple, but it is hard when the fear overcomes you. Fear is an emotion we feel because we start to lose the control we have, we imagine the worst-case scenario, and set ourselves up for it. But you can change how your mind perceives these events.
The journaling or meditating on situations that cause you trouble is the beginning.
The psychologist who decided one must face their fear by being in the situation was spot on. The more you face the things that cause your social anxiety or shyness, the more you can plan, control, and combat the panic.
It is possible to have a panic attack when thinking about the situation, and yet being in your home. You might feel a headache, short of breath, and chest pains just contemplating a fearful social encounter. The best way to fight this is to admit it is not happening, take a deep breath, another one, and close your eyes. Picture a happy memory or look at a picture in your home that calms you or makes you smile. When you are calm again, you can think of ways to avoid the situation you pictured in your mind at home.
Your mind is powerful. You can train it to react differently in social situations by being in a safe zone before you actually enter the social location. It can cause your anxiety to rise at first, but as long as you remember “I am safe” as a safe word in your mind you can work through the anxiety and come up with methods to protect yourself in the social situations.
I know it sounds difficult. It can bring on nightmares thinking about social occasions that cause fears; however, unless you are willing to face these fears, you are not going to find a normal routine.
Adapting Your Life for Shyness
It is okay to be shy, even extremely shy, as long as you do not let the fear rule your life. Another key to dealing with shyness, particularly social anxiety that grips you and stops you from your normal routine, is creating a lifestyle that provides plenty of acceptable aloneness.
Choosing a career that allows you to be shy and introverted is possible. The internet makes these jobs even easier to find than a decade ago. Writers, mathematicians, researchers, historians, and several other career people have found ways to keep their introversion hidden and their life more comfortable. Going into a career where you need to be vocal and face social situations, is possible and if you are willing to overcome your shyness and anxiety that is great, but also understand you do not have to push yourself beyond reasonable limits.
Many introverts have held distinguishing careers. One of the greatest powers you have about being shy, even socially anxious is avoiding the distractions extroverts have. When a charismatic person needs to be social, they tend to talk all the time. They talk at work, about work and life, they engage people easily and make wonderful sales staff. But, have you ever watched a salesperson? A salesperson will make a closing sale, such as real estate, books, cars, and other sales related items. But how effective are they in other areas? The paperwork might sit for several hours. The person might hop around to other things, make more sales, and forget the details.
Introverts get tons done. Their focus is on the details, getting the work accomplished, and that matters. The reason numerous business books highlight introversion as a powerful tool is because it is. Yes, there are points where you need to stay strong against the social anxiety that causes panic to win, but you can also create a lifestyle that fits your strengths.
The truth is everyone is great at something, whether it is talking and selling, or creating the next invention by working diligently and on your own. You should own what makes you strong and worthwhile, and work on the things that get in the way of optimal performance in life.
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Overcoming Personal Challenges
One of the biggest areas social anxiety or extreme shyness affects us is in the personal relationship. Funny enough studies and personal experience show several introverts marry extroverts. The extrovert pushes the introvert to be social, but also takes over some of the load in speaking in a social situation. Your shyness can be an advantage.
A few parting words to help you continue your way to overcoming social anxiety and shyness:
● Work on your self-confidence.
● Create a lifestyle that fits your social needs, such as conversing once a week in a social setting and hiding the rest of the week.
● Push your limits to develop new comfort ability limits.
● Keep working at home on ways to face social challenges, so you go in with a plan and adapt when fear rises versus going into full panic.
Finally, embrace who you are and your limitations. You are worthwhile, worth knowing, and your extreme shyness is normal -for you and many introverts in the world. Own your abilities and work with the fear to make you stronger.