What is Social Anxiety Disorder (aka SAD)? Social Anxiety is defined primarily, of course, to the reference in the name of one having difficulty with anxiety in social settings. What surprises many however, are the varying degrees and locales for some in which the emotions may occur.
Things as simple as going to the grocery store become terrifying, no need to even mention large crowds. It can even include, for some, just chatting on the phone or via the internet. The stress level and feeling of being out of control can overcome logical reasoning and lead one to a life of solitude. Television usually nonthreatening, animals a comfort and often you'll find their home a horde of books and puzzles or games of some sort or another (maybe just a deck of cards.)
Keep in mind that this kind of anxiety occurs for most people every day. Hoping that person walking past won't say hello, standing in an elevator with a couple of others, giving speeches, not wanting to be called on in a class or meeting, etc.
How does Social Anxiety begin and why? Research shows that more often than not, these individuals have suffered some form of abuse or personal trauma. A diagnosis of depression is also consistently present. A tortured mind, feelings of loneliness, sadness and hopelessness pervade the thought life and it just becomes easier to stay at home or be in bed.
There are those with different circumstances that may revolve around a very protected, sheltered environment growing up - where one may not be able to learn proper coping skills due to 'babying,' criticism or overprotection from parents. Some personalities are simply shy. This category of men and women are usually very meek, introverted people. They are hesitant in decision making and unassertive. This frequently leads to being 'taken advantage of' by others, verbal and/or emotional abuse, and possibly ridicule. This already looks like a recipe for social anxiety that many can understand!
How on earth does one overcome such a day to day obstacle? This is frustrating for the individual with the experiences and for the family and friends on the outside watching, who can't fathom the idea of not wanting to be around other people!
Some tips to help:
#1 - Please see a professional! There are psychologists and social workers who go to school for special training to help those suffering in this way. It may be that a psychiatrist will need to be involved for medication issues and they can help facilitate this effort and also assist in interfacing with your family
#2 - Take the time to figure out your triggers. What am I doing or thinking at the time I start to feel anxious? Who is around me? What kind of setting am I in? What am I reflecting on internally? Make a list. As you recognize those things and patterns as they arise the thoughts can be easier to avoid and to stop dead in their tracks when they begin.
#3 - Invest in yourself. "Me time." The power of positive thinking is no myth.The battlefield of the mind is an intense place where you CAN win. You are beautiful! You are unique! You are in control!
#4 - Avoid stimulants. Seems like a no brainer - but it sure is a possible trigger for a myriad of people. Caffeine, nicotine, illicit substances, herbs and certain prescription and over the counter medications.
#5 - Spend some time outside every day. Even if its just for ten minutes at a time. The benefit of sunlight can improve mood and motivate you with the control you exert over your emotions for that period of time every day. Exercising every day before dinner time is a great way to release pent up anxiety, to force your mind to essentially become 'mindless' to focus on the task at hand, and to increase endorphins - which improve mood.