It’s okay to need help for this. Having social anxiety is not something to be ashamed of. You didn’t ask for this burden. Chances are you are a particularly sensitive person who embarrasses easily. Over time, your sensitivity to others’ judgment grew to where it is now.
You are not alone in your feelings. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health orders. Social Anxiety (also called social phobia) is the term that is used for when a person gets extremely nervous whenever they are with other people. It comes from a fear that others will judge what they do and say.
According to the World Health Organization, one in 13 people globally have Social Anxiety. It is currently the third largest mental health problem in the world.
Everyone experiences some social anxiety every now and then. It is normal to be nervous when asked to do a presentation in a class or at work. It is usual to be anxious if you have to interact with someone in authority. It is normal to be upset when you feel unfairly judged by someone else. But these normal instances pass fairly quickly and don’t generally limit a person’t life.
Social Anxiety, however, is limiting. It often causes a person to continually narrow their lives so they don’t have to interact with other people. Although people with Social Anxiety certainly want to have friends and to participate in activities with others, their fear of judgment gets in the way. As it progresses, the person gets nervous about being nervous, which makes the feelings even worse. People with severe Social Anxiety often don’t want to even venture out of their own house or will do so only when accompanied by someone they know and trust.
The good news is that Social Anxiety is treatable. According to the Social Anxiety Association, “Appropriate active, structured, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the only solution to this problem”. Although anti-anxiety medication can provide some relief, it does not provide long-term results unless it is combined with CBT Studies supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Mental Health show that a combination of individual CBT therapy and a behavioral therapy group is highly successful.
Therefore, the best way for you to recover from your Social Anxiety is to take advantage of what studies show is most helpful. Find a CBT therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders.
The paradox for some people is that the thought of seeing a therapist is so anxiety provoking that they avoid it — even though they know it is the best way to solve their problem. Some anti-anxiety medication from your doctor might help you get over that obstacle. Also, consider taking a trusted person with you to a few therapy sessions until you are comfortable with the therapist.
If there are no CBT therapists in your area, start your journey to better mental health by working through a workbook on Social Anxiety. There are several good workbooks available from online booksellers. When you are feeling ready, do consider using an online therapist who is trained in CBT.
You made a first step toward health by writing to us here at PsychCentral. Please take care of yourself by making the next step. Begin the work you need to do to be comfortable with family and friends and to have the social life you deserve to have.
I wish you well.