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Many people suffer from something called social anxiety. This is the feeling of being out of control and nervous and even afraid of being in social situations. There are different levels of social anxiety. While many people get nervous in social situations, some people get so anxious that they cannot force themselves to get into a social situation in public without being medicated, and even then, they find it awkward and difficult. Some people even have panic attacks.
Several social situations can trigger negative thoughts that can swirl around and around your head, making you more and more anxious about the social situation that may be coming up. You might even completely talk yourself out of attending, which can then lead to worse problems and even eventually lead to agoraphobia where your fear of social situations becomes so pronounced you can’t even leave the house.
Negative Thought Triggers
Situations that can trigger negative thoughts in people with social anxiety include:
* Meeting new people
* Potential criticism
* Being the center of attention
* Other people observing you
* Speaking in public
* Group interactions
* Meeting authority figures
* Not knowing what to say
* Feeling unsure about what to wear
* Looking into other people’s eyes
* Talking on the phone
Some of the things on the list above might seem silly to you if you do not suffer from social anxiety yourself, but the list can go on and on if you do. People with social anxiety will start going over potential scenarios in their head the moment they realize they are going to have a social interaction. These thoughts are typically negative (Hello, worst case scenarios!) and start the cycle of anxiety and panic.
How Thoughts turn into Social Anxiety
When a person with social anxiety meets a new person they imagine messing up the person’s name, forgetting their own name, or having bad breath. They imagine saying something “wrong” and being the butt of a joke or subject to criticism due to being “wrong”. They feel nervous even getting an award because people are looking at them and making them the center of attention. They start thinking that they did not deserve the award and that they are a fraud and shouldn’t go collect or accept the award after all.
Then it just goes downhill from there. They can’t stop spinning every possible scenario into a bad thing until their heart is beating out of their chest, they can’t breathe right and finally they have a full-fledged panic attack. Due to this, they end up bringing part of what they thought true, becoming the center of attention due to the panic attack and then being judged as weird or dramatic.
Sounds awful, right? As you can see, thoughts have a lot of power even though they’re just thoughts and not even reality. When you start to realize how these negative thoughts can cause social anxiety and make it worse, then you can also realize how turning your thoughts around to positive thoughts can reduce social anxiety.
Turning the Negatives into Positives
If you have social anxiety, try this: The minute you notice you are obsessing about any future event it’s time to get out of your own head and do something different. Practice deep breathing, and read some positive quotes. If your stress is because you’re not sure what to wear, find a good friend to help you pick something out. If you’re worried about bad breath, take some mints with you. If you are scared you will say someone’s name wrong, practice the names if you know who will be going.
There are always ways in which you can turn negative thoughts into positives but the most important thing is to realize that no one is perfect and no one expects you to be perfect. Most people have some of the same worries that you do, they just don’t take it to the higher level that turns it into anxiety. I hope these tips help you in your next social situation. For more support, I recommend the DARE method to end anxiety and panic attacks. What's taught in this book has helped me tremendously! It's four dollars right now on Kindle. Read it!
*Remember: I am not a doctor. Nothing in this blog should be taken as medical advice.