Take a moment and imagine this: suppose you are out in public in a crowd. It could be anywhere: a supermarket at midday, a cocktail party at night, or a restaurant for dinner. Wherever it is, the room is filled with people.
Do you feel your heartbeat increase? Is your blood pumping with the adrenaline fueling your fight-or-flight response? Do you feel butterflies in your stomach? Are you sweating with your muscles trembling uncontrollably?
Those feelings are all consistent with a fear response. If you feel any of these things and your natural response is to go hide in a corner or make for an exit, you may be experiencing symptoms of a common mental health disorder.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition that affects seven percent of Americans. Nearly three-quarters of people with SAD began experiencing their symptoms in adolescence.
People with SAD have often had their feelings dismissed by authority figures and peers, which can lead them to hide their symptoms and not talk about them. This lack of learned coping skills can leave them more at risk for depression and substance use disorders.
Women are more likely to experience symptoms of social anxiety. Research indicates that among those diagnosed with SAD, 15.5% are women, compared to 11.1% of men. Read on to learn more about SAD and strategies women can use to overcome and cope with their social anxiety.
Women and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
In general, women suffer from anxiety disorders at higher rates than men. Men are more likely than women to seek and find treatment for anxiety disorders, and typically do not seem to have issues with acquiring appropriate services.
Women are not just more likely to experience social anxiety, they are also more likely to experience a greater severity of symptoms and an increased likelihood of comorbidity with other conditions.
Overcoming Social Anxiety as Women
It is unclear why women may have access issues with emotional and psychiatric support services. Some research suggests that women are more likely to seek the help of doctors and ERs in treating mental health disorders. Men appear more likely to directly seek out mental health professionals.
Whatever the reason, women also seem to be more likely to present chronic symptoms of anxiety disorders. One reason women may not seek help is related to both the stigma of mental healthcare and their societal roles as wives and mothers which leave them little time for self-care.
There is hope. Spero Recovery, like many treatment centers, provides services uniquely tailored to specialize in women’s health. Understanding the unique challenges women face can greatly affect the outcome of treatment.
Coping With Social Anxiety
There are a few strategies that can help you start coping with symptoms of social anxiety. These include:
For those afflicted with social anxiety, finding the right support is critical. Many people who have been diagnosed with SAD have had their symptoms dismissed by people in authority and peers. Some support services available are:
- Individual clinical therapy
- Group clinical therapy
- Non-clinical support groups
It is important that you engage in activities that help you accept who you are. Most social anxiety is not really about what other people think of you. It is about self-esteem and what you think of yourself. Strategies to increase acceptance include:
- Practicing mindfulness
- Making sure you meet your own needs
- Keeping a journal of your thoughts
Changing Your Perspective
As we just mentioned, social anxiety is not really about what other people think of you. It is about your fear of what they think. Most people do not think negatively, upon reflection. Try these exercises to change your perspective:
- Getting out in nature
- Exercising for thirty minutes per day
- Challenging catastrophic thoughts by reminding yourself that you cannot know what other people think
Solving Problems in Real-Time
Running for the door or hiding in a corner is not solving the problem. Hiding from our problems never does. Overcoming social anxiety disorder takes time, but try these steps to start the process:
- If possible, sit down and speak with those who engage with you.
- Say a friendly hello to someone nearby.
- Whatever you came to do (eat, shop, socialize), stay and complete the task.
Social Anxiety: Diagnosis and Treatment
Social anxiety is a treatable illness. Like many severe mental health conditions, SAD may require both psychotherapeutic and medical interventions. Your healthcare providers will determine which is right for you.
In most cases, care teams will choose cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as a treatment method for social anxiety. Because SAD is a phobia, CBT treatment will focus on slowly immersing you in the situation you fear, building up your tolerance so that it no longer affects you negatively.
Beyond talk therapies, some medications like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help alleviate your symptoms. Benzodiazepines are medications that are readily available and can help calm nerves for people with strong phobias. Another medication that can alleviate stress is beta blockers, which are commonly prescribed to bring down high blood pressure.
As we discussed among the tips for coping with SAD, support groups can be a great way to treat social anxiety. Whether you are working with a therapist to slowly build up your tolerance to social situations over time, taking medications, or chatting in group therapy, there is a solution to social anxiety. Overcoming social anxiety is possible, and your friends at Spero Recovery can help you get there.
When you go out in public and find yourself shrinking back into a corner, looking for the exits, and avoiding contact with others, you may be suffering from social anxiety. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a real mental health condition, one that women experience in greater numbers than men. It can be hard to seek help, and sometimes you may blame yourself for your anxiety, but it is not your fault. You may have even faced ridicule and shame from authority figures and peers in the past concerning your social anxiety. Thankfully, social anxiety is treatable with the right therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you to overcome your fears, combined with medical interventions and group therapy skills classes. Let your friends at Spero Recovery help you to find the right path forward. Call us today at (303) 351-7888 and let us help you.