For those with social anxiety disorder, navigating through the world is a constant struggle while trying to avoid contact and conversation. Social settings and situations are crippling to these individuals, as massive fears of being viewed in a negative light are simply too much to handle.
A misconstrued fact concerning most cases of social anxiety is that the phobia is isolated to the specific event itself. While the distress may reach its limit and manifest in the form of a panic attack during the occasion, a person afflicted with this condition will often ruminate over the upcoming event for days, weeks or even months depending how far ahead it is planned. The fabricated story of what may happen is actually the psychological trap that most victims fall into.
For a person with social anxiety disorder, it becomes a big decision in regards to whether he or she will attend an upcoming engagement. The stress of committing to social obligations leads to a whole new breed of anxiety. But if it does not conflict with or strain one’s schedule and he or she genuinely wants to go, the person should make a mental RSVP. By giving a definite decision sooner rather than later, an individual can rest easier with a clearer plan of action. Instead of worrying over the possibility of attending, the mind can start accepting that the event will simply happen. For unavoidable situations, this conscious and active acceptance will have a similar therapeutic effect.
As the party or social gathering draws closer, excess stress may still surge for a list of reasons. It is important to know that individuals’ anxiety will not completely dissolve while attending the event, but there are a few guiding suggestions to keep one’s concerns manageable during the gathering:
- Start small: By implementing a hierarchy of gradual exposure, a person can build the experience and confidence necessary to tackle more socially active stimuli. The gradual build can work by attending smaller, more casual occasions beforehand or by sharing quick interactions with other attendees as the event goes on.
- Attend with a friend: Ideally, an individual should choose someone who is familiar with social anxiety disorder and what it entails. Also, just having another source of support is beneficial to one’s condition as he or she can intervene if any serious incidents occur.
- Do not get trapped by expectations: It is always important to keep in mind that anyone can leave a party at anytime for any reason. The person can promise oneself to leave if he or she is not comfortable by a certain point.
- Make a home base: There is usually a nook or cranny at any celebration where a person can recollect thoughts and re-establish control. If an event is particularly overwhelming, use a specific area to give the occasion some structure. An individual does not need to confront an entire event in one sitting. Take breaks between conversations and establish a routine.
- Avoid self-medication: Although tempting, using alcohol or other substances to ease interactions is a dangerous habit to start. A person should not need to rely on an external force to accomplish social functions. Humans are innately social beings and even those who struggle with group conversation can learn to embrace it with time.
Along with this advice one can utilize in the present moment, it is also crucial to know that one will not defeat his or her anxiety in the course of a single party or get-together. As new events occur in a person’s future, practicing these words of wisdom will develop a variety of supportive habits to effectively manage social anxiety.
In some cases, this anxiety will take an additional degree of care and guidance to remedy. This is where Sovereign Health Group comes in. Struggling with anxiety of any kind can become a messy, inner conflict, even in times of celebration. If you or someone you know is dealing with addiction, mental health disorders or co-occurring conditions you can seek out Sovereign Health by calling (866) 819-0427.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer