I’m going to make a confession, I don’t generally like people. I know how this may sound, it’s cruel and it means that those who are reading this are lumped into that group called “people”, but it’s true. When I go to visit friends, I generally gravitate toward the pet in the household before I talk to the people.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t try to make conversation, and the word, “generally” is what I wish for you to pay more attention to. I want to like people, I strive to like people, but at the end of the day, I am relieved to be away from them.
To help you understand what it feels like to have social anxiety, think of it this way: It’s a small room, packed with people, from wall to wall, and the music is loud and the air is tight! Yeah, you understand, that, don’t you? But what if these uncomfortable feelings were the same in a room with very few people and only soft music?
Most people wouldn’t mind being in the company of a few people, but I do. I am constantly afraid that I am being criticized, this makes me nervous. Then this translates to being worried about whether they notice my nervousness. It grows and grows until my pulse races and my head starts to hurt. I must get away, I must!
I don’t want to be afraid of people anymore!
This is called social anxiety. I’m not alone either…many of you feel the same way and just can’t bring yourself to tell “people” how you feel. It’s okay, because there may be a way to cure social anxiety, and can feel at home around your fellow man. Isn’t that a lovely thought?
What doesn’t work
To understand what cures social anxiety, you must first become familiar with what has failed to help. Medication, for instance, has failed in this area, for the most part. When anxious symptoms, pertaining to people, was first diagnosed with a disorder or phobia, medications and therapy were introduced to eliminate these issues. Since “happy pills” work on depressive disorders, they just figured that the same medications would work wonders with social anxiety.
Unfortunately, it had an opposite effect. “Happy pills” only camouflage the symptoms and when medications are reduced just slightly, the anxiety is stronger than in the beginning. Medications compound the symptoms; thus, they do not work in the long term.
After failure to treat social anxiety, therapy was used to see the reaction. It seems that talking through the anxious feelings helps to understand the root of the problem. Social anxiety does not come from the air! These symptoms of mental illness were triggered by some form of trauma or severe disappointment in humans. People aren’t’ scared of other people for no reason. Getting to the root of the problem helps us to process what we are feeling and even build trust in our counselor. After all, a therapist is a person as well, and it’s a step in the right direction when meeting for counsel.
Delving deeper, with metacognitive therapy, social anxiety is met with working on thoughts and reactions-then beliefs about those thoughts. With this sort of therapy, we can learn to regulate our attention span and train with various mental tasks.
What? Do you mean we can conquer social anxiety simply by making our brains more resilient to the stress of “peopling”? And how can we apply this?
Now, don’t panic! The best way to treat social anxiety is immersion therapy. You must force it at first, by acceptance of your fears on the inside while focusing outwardly. You just must take small steps, small engagements and even smaller groups of people, until you can handle the full effect.
So, it’s not the quick cure-all, but to me, it’s a start. No, I don’t generally like people, but I also get lonely. I hope, over time, that I can learn to deal with society in a more open manner. Until then, I will take small steps, focusing on my environment and fully accepting my fear of my fellow man.
After all, I am reaching out here at least!