Social phobia is one of the most common social anxieties which are marked with persistent fear of performing or speaking insocial situation. Many people avoid speaking in front of a crowd because they are afraid of being humiliated or judged by others. The feeling of anxiety while speaking to large group is so intense that they are afraid of being labeled as crazy or stupid. Here are the most common symptoms of social anxiety:
- Consistent fear of speaking in front of a group or a crowd of people
- Persistent fear of exposure to unfamiliar persons
- Fear of being judged by others while performing or speaking in front of a crowd
- Fear of going crazy or being humiliated while speaking
- Avoidance of social situations or endured with intense anxiety or distress
- Fear of being watched at work, cafeteria, restaurants or other public places
- Fear of choking on or spilling food while eating in public, and
- Anxiety related physiological changes such as fastening of hear beat, sweating, shaking… etc.
- Relaxation training: learning abdominal breathing and deep relaxation techniques to alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety. You can learn this by inhaling and holding the breath for few seconds (up to 10 seconds) and releasing it. You can practice this on a daily basis and it helps you to feel relaxed and in control of your emotion. In my counseling experience, I proved that this method is quite effective with persons with different types of anxiety disorders.
- Cognitive therapy: Identifying the irrational thoughts that provoke the social anxiety and replacing them with a healthy positive thought patterns.
- Exposure: Instead of avoiding a social situation, facing it gradually is one of the most effective treatments in social anxiety. You can start with imaginary audience. For instance, if you have a presentation at your school or work setting, you can create an imaginary situation where you can practice the presentation. Gradually, you can extend this to a small group such as to your friends. Finally, you do the presentation in the actual situation. I want to assure you assure you the more you expose yourself to a social situation the less your social anxiety becomes. In contrary, if you avoid social situations, the intensity of the fear becomes strong and affects your daily and work life.
- Focusing on the task: most people with social anxiety tend to focus on how they are doing or how to respond to the others reaction instead of the task itself. Training yourself how to focus on the task may help you to lower down your obsession with the audience or others.
- Social skills training: Learning the basic social skills like smiling, eye contact, maintaining a conversation and other skills may help you because they boosts your effectiveness in social situations and, in turn, this reinforces you to engage in other social activities.
American Psychiatric Association,& American Psychiatric Association (Eds.). (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Bourne, E. J. (2005).The anxiety & phobia workbook (4th ed). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.