According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 15 million U.S. Americans, or 6.8% of the population, suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). SAD, also sometimes referred to as social phobia, is an intense fear of social situations. The sufferer believes they could become humiliated and embarrass themselves somehow in front of other people. They tend to focus on every little mistake they make (or could conceivably make) and assume that everyone else is judging them.
The most common social phobia is giving a public presentation. Did you know that the number 1 fear of people all around the world is public speaking and death is the second? That’s right, more people are scared to get up in front of others and speak than they are to kick the bucket!
Shyness VS SAD
People often confuse shyness with social anxiety disorder, but the two are very different. While a shy person may be a bit uneasy around others, they will generally not experience the same intense anxiety as someone with an actual social phobia. Shy people also don’t go to the extreme avoidance of social situations while those with SAD will often do anything to avoid being in a social gathering.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
- Extreme and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations where a person is exposed to scrutiny or unfamiliar people.
- Panic attacks at the mere thought of the social situation.
- The person recognizes the fear as excessive or irrational but still cannot control their feelings.
- The social situation is avoided at all costs.
- The irrational fears affect the person’s everyday life and interferes with career and personal relationship growth.
Dealing with Social Anxiety Disorder at Work
If your social anxiety is interfering with your career goals, here are 4 ways you can deal with it:
Meditation has been scientifically proven to calm a person’s nerves. By being still and focusing on your breath for just 10 minutes each day, you can learn to settle yourself in the face of anxiety and stress.
2. Focus on Performance, Not Feelings
People suffering from SAD tend to focus solely on how they feel during a social setting, not the positive things that may happen. When you focus on how well you’ve done, you start to forget about your nerves.
As an example, during your next board meeting, don’t focus on whether or not you are blushing or sweating, you can’t control that anyway. Just focus on making good eye contact with everyone in the room. When all is said and done, you will feel fantastic that you made such an accomplishment.
3. Try and Be Realistic
It’s important to be realistic in the face of your anxiety. For instance, if you’ve given speeches in the past and have done well, then it is unrealistic to tell yourself that you are “going to bomb.” Instead tell yourself, “I have done well in the past, I am very prepared and I will do a good job.”
4. Work with a Therapist
If social anxiety has stopped you from getting promotions or helping your family financially, then it’s time to get some help from a professional therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders. He or she can give you coping strategies that will help you move forward in life.
If you or someone you know is suffering with SAD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help life feel more comfortable.