Understanding Our Social Anxiety

Anxiety is a hard thing to deal with. It chooses bizarre times to strike, for the most innocuous reasons, and can last from a few seconds to a few days. It has no rhyme or reason and expresses itself in different ways for different people. There are several symptoms that present themselves in those of us with anxiety. It isn’t always stomach clenching, limbs feeling numb, or feeling like you are on the verge of a panic attack. Anxiety is more nuanced than that and has many forms. For some of us, the most common of these surrounds social interactions, known as social anxiety. The first step in recovering from social anxiety is gaining knowledge of our own condition and when it presents itself

While we may experience some form of physical symptoms when going through anxiety, there are emotional and mental effects that can present themselves as well. Tightness in our muscles, racing thoughts, shortened breath, rash decision-making, irritability, and fatigue are some of the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, and thus are common with people who suffer from social anxiety. These are most prevalent when we are given some sort of overwhelming stimuli from social interaction or setting, or have a social gathering in the near future. For instance, when we are about to go to a family gathering or party with friends, where we are going somewhere with the likelihood to be a large number of people in an unfamiliar setting, away from the safety and comfort of our homes, the resulting anxiety from this leads to a desire to not go. Even if it is a gathering that we ourselves have planned and have wanted to go to for a long time, we can still suddenly feel afraid to go. This is our mental defense mechanism in coping with the negative symptoms that social anxiety can bring. It is a common thing for those of us in recovery to suffer from, even people who don’t suffer from generalized anxiety. Regardless of whether or not it is a diagnosed issue, the fact that we suffer from it means that social anxiety is worthy of notice and treatment. 

There are many ways to cope with social anxiety, but remember that the process of learning to deal with this does not have to occur overnight. There is no need to overwhelm ourselves, and knowing our limits is important. Growth occurs slowly over time, so patience is key through our struggle. One method that can be effective for growth is pushing through the discomfort. While symptoms sometimes only present themselves as minor, such as general discomfort, our brains recoil from what is perceived to be an emotionally and physically taxing endeavor. Taking the opposite action and attending a social gathering we feel anxious about allows for us to retrain our brains to process the stimuli in a more effective manner. With social anxiety, our brains see social encounters as overwhelming, rife with negative emotions. By pushing yourself to be a part of when you feel anxious, it reinforces the positive neurological pathways associated with sociability. The resulting effect is the withering of our old pathways that result in social encounters processing negatively and expressing themselves through symptoms of anxiety. That said, this does not mean we have to stay for the whole gathering or be the life of the party. Knowing our limits and leaving after we have enjoyed ourselves or start feeling overly anxious is crucial. Be wary of overstimulating your brain; when we feel ourselves slipping to a poor headspace, consider extricating yourself from the environment and protect your internal peace of mind. This is the other aspect of social anxiety to consider when trying to take this opposite action. Knowing when to listen to our own minds and protect our peace of mind is crucial for recovery. It can seem counter-intuitive to listen to our brains when the brain is where anxiety manifests itself, but when deciding to go out, understand that we do not have to do anything that we don’t want to do. We are responsible for our own serenity and should protect that first and foremost.

Social anxiety can be a frustrating thing to deal with. It can keep us from being present for our families, affect our friendships, and cause us to miss out on the beautiful journey of life in recovery. We don’t want to miss out on what matters most, so don’t be afraid to look for help within our programs. Social anxiety doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your social life and you can take the power back. Do not let it define you and remember how powerful you truly are. Your life is defined by you, and you alone. Your head doesn’t get to define that. You are, and always will be, more than any mental illness. 

     If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with anxiety or mental illness, do not hesitate to contact the team here at True Recovery. Our program, founded in 2014, is built around finding what’s best for you to overcome your addiction. Our facility is located in Newport Beach, California, with our supportive housing located close to our campus in Costa Mesa. Take advantage of the local beaches, nature preserves, and Orange County community while we fight for you. Contact us at (866) 399-6528 or [email protected]