What is a social anxiety disorder or SAD? SAD is a psychological malfunction triggered by an extreme fear of social gatherings. Those who suffer from this disorder have difficulty in meeting new people and even talking to them. Their fear stems from being scrutinized or judged by others. Although they are aware that their paranoia is irrational, but feel helpless.
Unlike shyness, a short-term problem, social anxiety disorder is a severe condition that disrupts everyday life. People with SAD often have issues related to:
- Attending school
- Developing relationships outside of the family
However, with all the debilitating effects SAD may have on an individual’s life, the good news is it is treatable. If you have social phobia, these tips will help you overcome it:
Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment Through Exposure and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
What is CBT, and how can it help? CBT is one of the most effective techniques to overcome SAD. Its goal is to equip you with psychological tools to change how you perceive the feared social situations. It requires practicing challenging your negative thoughts every time you are exposed to a social setting. For instance, if there is a party you have been invited to, your primary objective should be to strike a conversation with only one or two individuals. Then, gradually increase the number of people you talk to as you begin to feel more comfortable. Be aware of negative thoughts and practice changing them into positive ones.
Remember, the more you expose yourself to the cause of anxiety, the more you can practice CBT to change your behavior. However, do not expect a rapid change in how you feel. It requires consistent exposure before you begin to experience the difference.
The Role of Amygdala in Triggering Social Anxiety
The answer to why it takes consistent exposure lies in the neural pathways of your brain. One such path is associated with the amygdala, which plays a vital role in processing fear. Amygdala acts as a defense mechanism and gets activated when confronted with a dangerous situation. For instance, coming across a wild animal more robust than you may cause you to run away or hide. In such a case, it helps you save your life.
However, being socially phobic could be associated with childhood traumas, such as bullying, being raised by abusive parents, or other bad experiences. Consequently, when you grow up, your amygdala recalls such experiences every time you face people and acts defensively to protect you from harm. To overcome social fear, you must retrain your mind by exposing it to more social situations regardless of how difficult it may seem initially.
This is where practicing CBT can help you. Instead of avoiding the cause of fear, confronting and rationalizing the trigger points can gradually change the brain’s perception. Eventually, a time will come when the amygdala will not hijack your mind, and your ability to make sense of the once feared situation will prevail. By this time, you will be able to feel more comfortable facing people.
Although frequent exposure to social situations is the best remedy against social phobia, other things like regular workouts also help. Make sure that you spend at least an hour exerting your body to reap the benefits.