The degree of technological development and the appreciation of work that has been achieved in contemporary society means that we are constantly charged for good performance.
Not only are we expected to be productive and tasks to be delivered within their respective deadlines, but the ability to influence and engage people, to lead teams and to maintain good relationships inside and outside of work is also valued. It is in this context of demands, expectations, and pressure that anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, find fertile ground to establish themselves.
In this post, we’ll talk about a phobia or social anxiety, its manifestations, impacts on communication and what is possible to do to get around the problem. Follow!
Normal anxiety versus pathological anxiety:
Do I need professional help?
Feeling afraid is normal, a fast heart, cold hands and increased sweat are some of the physiological reactions that the body manifests when it detects a situation of danger or threat.
Normal or physiological anxiety is defined by the advantageous response to challenging situations, and this feeling is part of the growth, changes, and experiences that integrate the development of every human being.
Pathological anxiety, according to the psychiatric literature, is the inadequate and dysfunctional response to a stimulus, considering its intensity and duration. The difference is that, in social phobia, the individual starts to suffer from professional, academic and social losses.
Typical symptoms of this disorder are:
- a diffuse and vague feeling of apprehension
- excessive sweating
- accelerated heart
Although there are symptoms in common between physiological anxiety and pathological social anxiety, it is important to know that, in cases that deserve concern, this bodily reaction causes the person to have a distorted perception regarding time, space, people and people. events. Therefore, the aversion to social interactions, then, starts to interfere in learning, concentration, memory, and interaction.
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The statistics show that the problem is more common among women, and begins in adolescence, often being linked to shyness since childhood.
Most of the time, the disease has a chronic course and does not usually go into remission if not treated. People with social phobia tend to be single, with lower educational and socioeconomic levels and poorer quality of life.
What happens in social anxiety?
Anxiety or social phobia is characterized by nervous tension, discomfort, excessive and persistent fear triggered by exposure to social assessment.
This can happen in a generalized way, when the individual feels this way in most social situations, or in a specific way when the unpleasant feeling is restricted to a public situation of performance and social interaction, such as:
- speak in public
- eating in public
- writing or playing instruments in front of others
- use a public bathroom
- enter a room where people are already seated
Thus, it is easy to understand that the person wants to show a favorable image of himself, but he is not sure that he has enough skill to perform his tasks. This makes it develop hypotheses about itself and about the world, which induce the organism to interpret that it is in danger in different social contexts.
The big problem is that, generally, the danger that the person with social anxiety perceives is not compatible with the real situation and, even so, he creates dysfunctional thoughts that trigger symptoms and make his performance, real or perceived, poor.
Poor performance increases shyness and anticipatory anxiety, triggering a cyclic and chain reaction. Not infrequently, patients with social phobia express the fear of looking foolish, being in the center of attention, making mistakes and being the target of comments and laughter.
How to get around the problem?
In more extreme cases, social anxiety may require pharmacological treatment. However, the most accepted approach today is cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is an educational psychotherapeutic intervention, in which the professional assumes a collaborative posture and uses techniques to modify dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors and, thus, solve problems.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety, we seek to work on three fundamental axes: cognitive restructuring, relaxation, and social skills training.
The purpose of this technique is to teach the patient to identify his irrational thoughts, and then a reality test is applied to correct the distorted content.
Working on perfectionism
One of the main problems of social phobic is to focus on fear situations. As they believe that they are being negatively evaluated by others, they end up turning their attention to self-monitoring in a detailed way.
This contributes to an increased response to anxiety and interferes with the behavior of other people, who start to perceive exactly what they wanted to hide. Therefore, it is important to deconstruct the idea of perfectionism or not being able to make mistakes, in order to discourage the focus of attention on details of behavior that generate suffering.
Another feeling that underlies social anxiety is the unrealistic expectation that others are dominant and superior, while you are less capable than others. For this reason, the development of self-esteem and the enhancement of the individual’s qualities need to be reinforced until he recognizes his potentialities.
The main objective is to make the person reach a state of mental and physical calm so that he learns to control the body’s responses to anxiety. Here, breathing, meditation, and muscle relaxation techniques can be used.
Social skills training
It is the most important axis in the treatment of social anxiety: the idea is that the person develops the ability to defend himself, express his opinions and refuse requests, for example, aiming to incorporate patterns appropriate to the individual’s behavior.
Social skills training is done by gradually exposing – systematic desensitization – to situations that cause anxiety. Initially, the stimuli that generate fear are given through mental images, asking the person to imagine situations and reshape their response to them. At the end of the treatment, the individual starts to physically confront the phobia situations, as it is expected that she is safer to act.
The role of oratory
The benefits of public speaking for success in interpersonal relationships, as well as in academic and professional situations, are well understood. This skill can be taught from childhood, in order to reduce shyness and increase communication skills.
When training oratory, the individual makes use of rules, techniques and persuasive strategies that attract the attention of the target audience, in addition, the art of speaking well unites the three axes used by cognitive-behavioral therapy in a single gesture:
- cognitive restructuring, because it is necessary to trust yourself and your qualities;
- relaxation, because speaking requires breathing techniques that help to calm, reduce anxiety and make it possible to keep speech at a pleasant pace;
- social skills training, because, when speaking in public, the individual is exposed to the situation of fear and uses the techniques previously learned to face the interlocutors.
Now that you know what social anxiety is and how to fight it, tell us: do you suffer from social phobia? Comment here which strategy you use to control the fear of being in exposure situations!