Fifteen million Americans, or 6.8% of the US population, suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. SAD, also called social phobia, is an intense fear of being humiliated and embarrassed in social situations. People with this fear tend to focus on every little mistake they make (or could possibly make) and assume that everyone else is judging them.
The most common social phobia is giving a public speech or presentation. Did you know that the number one fear of people all around the world is public speaking and death is the second? That’s right, more people are scared to get up in front of others and speak than they are to die!
Shyness VS SAD
People often confuse shyness with social anxiety disorder. However, the two are very different. While a shy person may be a bit uneasy around others, they will not experience the same intense anxiety as someone with an actual social phobia. Shy people might be uncomfortable, but they don’t go to the extreme avoidance of social situations while those with SAD will often do anything to avoid being in a social gathering.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder
- Extreme and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations where a person is exposed to scrutiny or to unfamiliar people.
- Panic attacks can occur from even the thought of the social situation.
- The person recognizes the fear as excessive or irrational, but still cannot control their feelings.
- The social situation is avoided if at all possible, even to their own detriment.
- The irrational fears affect the person’s everyday life and interfere with career and personal relationship growth.
Dealing with Social Anxiety Disorder at Work
If your social anxiety is interfering with your career goals, here are four ways you can manage it better:
Meditation has been scientifically proven to help people calm. By practicing being still and focusing on your breath for just 10 minutes each day, you can develop the ability to settle yourself in the face of anxiety and stress. If you have difficulty meditating on your own, try a guided meditation to support you.
2. Focus on Performance, Not Feelings
People suffering from SAD tend to focus solely on how they feel during a social situation, not what is actually happening. When you focus on what is actually occurring, you will start to forget about your nerves.
As an example, during your next board meeting, don’t focus on whether or not you are blushing or sweating, you can’t control that anyway. Just focus on making good eye contact with everyone in the room. Look for signs that people are engaged – are they looking back, smiling, appearing interested? Focus on connecting with the people who give positive signs and you will leave feeling successful.
3. Try and Be Realistic
It’s important to be realistic in the face of your anxiety. For instance, if you’ve given speeches in the past and have done well, then it is unrealistic to tell yourself that you are “going to bomb.” Instead tell yourself, “I have done well in the past, I am very prepared and I will do a good job.” Remind yourself that it is normal to feel a little anxious before you start, focus on your breathing, and know that you will be fine once you get going.
4. Work with a Therapist
If social anxiety has stopped you from progressing in your work life by getting promotions or building relationships, then it’s time to get some help from a professional therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders. He or she can give you coping strategies that will help you move forward in life.
If you or someone you know is suffering from SAD and would like to explore treatment options, please contact me to schedule a free consultation session at my office or online via secure video. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help life feel more comfortable and support you in moving forward with your career.