If you have social anxiety, then chances are you keep doing some mistakes that make you nervous about interacting with other people. Here are some common social anxiety mistakes and how you can start to overcome them.
The best news is that you don’t need to continue them. To help you recognize some of the most common mistakes, here is a list in no particular order:
Ruminating is thinking of something again and again, just like a cow is chewing its cud — over and over and over again! Usually, when people are talking about how badly they messed up during the last social interaction, they’re thinking about what they did wrong. It is common for people to ruminate after they get anxious, and that can cause more anxiety about the future.
2. Avoiding uncomfortable situations
Avoidance perpetuates anxiety. That’s because when you don’t do something you have been afraid of, or if you think about not doing it, it gives you a sense of relief.
This feeling of relief acts as a reinforcement for avoidance. If you took Psych 101 you learned that when behaviours are reinforced they are likely to be repeated.
What this means is that if you continue to use avoidance as a coping strategy for your anxiety, then it’s going to create a pattern of negative thinking and behaviour that won’t change until you stop using avoidance.
3. Using alcohol or drugs to get through social interactions
It’s a common misconception that using any sort of drug will immediately resolve or calm down an underlying anxiety issue. When you know for a fact that you’re only comfortable after 2-3 drinks, you’re sure to be doubly anxious when there’s no alcohol available.
People who have anxiety that’s medicated by drugs of any kind, including prescription drugs, will have anxiety that returns when the drugs are taken away. That’s why many doctors recommend using a combination of lifestyle changes and prescription medications.
4. Believing you have poor social skills
Don’t worry. You’re not the only one that has social anxiety and thinks that their communication skills are horrible. Consider the possibility that you’re wrong here.
The fact that you’re so aware of other people and what they think of you means you have the raw materials of a very successful socializer.
In the group that I run for people with social anxiety, I notice that many of them are completely convinced that they don’t have any social skills. They’re quite nice to others and very careful in their dealings with other people.
5. Assuming others always know what to do
“People always seem to know when to hug, while I am still trying to figure out when to shake hands” is an example of this cognitive error. Many social situations are inherently awkward, and we are all in the same boat when it comes to navigating them.
When someone has social anxiety, the difference between them and someone without it is that the one with social anxiety assumes responsibility immediately for any awkwardness they perceive.
Social anxiety is a serious issue. People who experience it can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be in public when they feel overwhelmed by anxiety.
Dropping things. Walking down the hall and tripping in front of others. It’s awkward when you don’t know what to say in a conversation.
Everyone experiences embarrassment and humiliation. But people who have social anxiety are really bothered by it. But, if you believe that one false step will lead you down a path where you will experience both censure and dislike, it’s no wonder that you are so anxious.
7. Focusing on yourself in the presence of others
The more you pay attention to yourself, the harder it is to pay attention to others. Social anxiety makes you constantly monitor yourself so you can rate your performance.
Unfortunately, this very monitoring decreases your ability to perform at your best. Being a good social being means listening and being present with other people. It’s not about saying interesting things or keeping the conversation going without stopping.
Honestly, that’s tiring for everyone.
8. Not seeking help
Social anxiety is a very treatable condition if you avoid those social anxiety mistakes. Most people who suffer from social anxiety can get better if they know what to do, and if they know how to approach social situations. If left alone, social anxiety tends to run a chronic course throughout life.
You’ll find little tricks for dealing with things that bother you when you get older, but is it really okay if your anxiety is still bothering you even decades down the road? What about a year from now? If you had regular stomach aches, you would go to a doctor to help you figure out what was wrong.
If you’ve never suffered from anxiety or other forms of emotional pain, it’s easy to assume that you shouldn’t need to deal with them. People suffering from social anxiety need to seek help. There are plenty of resources available, and looking for a specific type of social anxiety treatment can help.