“I know I’ll look stupid in the party”, “Is everyone laughing at me?”, “I hope I at least get this one right,” were some of many anxious thoughts plaguing Amanda (name changed) of San Bruno, California. The fear being evaluated negatively in different situations triggered tremendous anxiety, which forced the 15-year-old high school student to avoid social gatherings.
Even minor things, such as the very thought of raising her hand in class to answer a question, would make her sweat. In fact, the feeling of how others would view her made the young girl spend her breaks in the library all by herself. As a result, she would always avoid eye contact for the fear of initiating conversations. Her most traumatic experience was a speech, which she had to give during the sports festival. She tried every trick in the book to escape from the ordeal, such as faking a bad throat, cough and even high fever.
Amanda is not alone in her struggles. In fact, there are millions of people living with social anxiety disorder or other forms of anxiety for years, thinking they can fix things on their own or that the symptoms aren’t that serious. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting about 40 million adults in the country every year.
Therapy professionals believe that similar to other forms of anxiety disorders, even social anxiety involves the cognitive process of “time travelling,” which means the individual battling the mental condition is usually 10 steps ahead of the present circumstances. Therefore, mental health specialists suggest being mindful of the present to be the best way to deal with unproductive future-oriented thinking patterns. Refocusing one’s energies and attention on the neutral items in the present environment is the key to overcoming unwanted social anxiety.
Moreover, practicing meditation or yoga on a regular basis can provide new mindfulness strategies to people grappling with severe anxiety. Experts recommend deep breathing to combat anxious thoughts because deepening one’s breath into the lower areas of the diaphragm is an effective way to calm an anxious mind and prevent any anxiety-related physiological distress. Social anxiety is known to trigger judgmental attention to minute components of a specific task, which usually results in vigilant criticism. An individual struggling with social anxiety often indulges in self-criticism. However, the key to coping with such a condition is to nab one’s inner critic in the act.
Leading an anxiety-free life
Recognizing the differences between general anxiety patterns and severe forms of anxiety-related disorders is important. Individuals should ascertain if their increasing levels of anxiety was preventing them from participating in activities they enjoy. If anxiety seems to be a major roadblock lowering one’s quality of life, then people should seek professional treatment that usually consists of prescription medicines or psychotherapies or a combination of both. Managing anxiety involves measures to change the situation causing stress or changing the way one reacts to the situation as well as allotting time for relaxation and leisure activities.
What is worrisome is the unavoidable stigma associated with anxiety disorders. Discrimination due to public acknowledgement of anxiety-related problems could be one of the most difficult phases of the entire experience, which may result in further complications. On the whole, stigma can prevent sufferers from seeking professional intervention.
If you or your loved one is battling anxiety or any other mental health problem, get in touch with Sovereign Health of San Clemente to avail the latest treatment options by calling our 24/7 helpline or chatting online with one of our representatives. Specialists at our world-class anxiety treatment centers in California are trained to identify the underlying causes and prescribe customized treatment for anxiety disorders as well as group psychotherapy based on a patient’s requirements.