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How do I get rid of this life-sapping social anxiety?

Hi, I'm Faiza.

I'm a victim of social anxiety and have been suffering from it for years. I'm turning 19. I'm the most confused girl in my class. Social anxiety has made my life very hard. I get so nervous in gatherings and when speaking to people, teachers, even to my classmates. I have trouble making eye contact with people. I start trembling, sweating, my heart races, my stomach gets upset, and my mouth becomes dry. This also happens in tests, specifically in oral exams. I worry before a social situation.

I have very low self-esteem and confidence. I'm so self-conscious. I think that I don't look good and cool, that people won't like me. My friends are not close to me; I feel I am not like them. I'm so different and they can't understand me.

I sometimes experience symptoms of panic attacks like shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and chest pain. It's too hard to live with social phobia.

What should I do? And how can I overcome physical symptoms of anxiety? Should I go to a therapist? My brother thinks it's not a serious problem and I'll get better as I'll get older; he thinks it's easy to overcome, but I don't find it easy.

This question was submitted by 'Faiza'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hi Fazia,

Your brother is right and wrong. He's right that, most often, people leave excessive social anxiety behind as they grow older and develop. But he's wrong that it doesn't feel like a serious problem for you. To form relationships and be free to express ourselves with other people makes life fulfilling. I can recall being a teenager (just about : ) ) and feeling really socially anxious, so I know what it feels like from the inside to go from socially anxious to confident.

To maintain a state of social anxiety, you need to do two things:

  1. First, you need to misuse your imagination and believe what you imagine.
  2. Secondly, you need to focus inwardly when you need to be focusing your attention outwardly. Some research found that people experiencing social anxiety had less recall (when questioned later) about the environment they had been anxious in because they had not been focusing outside of themselves but were focusing inwards in a kind of negative trance state.

Learning to physically relax at the same time as learning to use your imagination to help, not hinder, you is one key to gaining social ease and confidence. And when you do that, you find that you naturally focus outside of yourself onto those around you. You also become more skeptical about negative imaginings, which become less and less.

Social anxiety makes people feel different, but you may not be as different as you have been imagining. You say you are the most confused girl in your class as if that is a fact. But how do you know that? The first thing I want you to do is to begin to question the certainty of your imagination. You imagine you don't look as good as others, you imagine all kinds of things. When you find your confidence, you'll find yourself bothering to imagine much less in that way.

Should you go to a therapist? Well, it depends on the kind of therapy. If it's the kind that wants to find reasons and causes and endlessly talk about childhood, then it might do more harm than good. If it is solution-focused and can teach you skills and how to relax in these social times, then it could be great. We also have an online program for social anxiety, '10 Steps to Overcome Social Anxiety', which should help you pretty quickly.

This can and will get better so you can begin to enjoy life the way it's meant to be enjoyed.

All my best,

Mark

watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - July 24th, 2014 in

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