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How to Cope with Social Anxiety Disorder

Does the thought of walking into a party or bar alone paralyze you with fear? Try these confidence boosters.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Put things in perspective Put things in perspective. Do you really think everyone in the room is worrying about you? They’re all way too busy thinking about themselves. Remember, you wouldn’t worry so much what people thought of you if you knew how little they did!
  • Step 2: Think realistically Evaluate your anxious thoughts realistically. If you’re uneasy talking in front of a group of people, identify the negative thought underlying your anxiety, like "Everyone will think I’m stupid." Ask yourself, is this thought productive or helping me? How do I know for sure that everyone will think that? Challenge your negative thought by replacing it with something more realistic and positive.
  • Step 3: Focus on your surroundings When you feel anxious during a social interaction, redirect your focus to really pay attention to what the other person is saying, instead of how anxious you feel.
  • Step 4: Take care of yourself physically Take care of yourself physically. Get enough sleep, do some exercise, and take on a practice such as yoga or meditation. Being well-rested will make you less susceptible to anxiety, and exercise and meditation are both great outlets for your nerves.
  • Step 5: Reduce your substance intake Reduce your substance intake. Limit caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, which all can increase your level of anxiety.
  • Step 6: Consider therapy Consider getting counseling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is based on the idea that changing the way you think can change the way you feel, has been shown to be the most effective psychological intervention for social anxiety. And a medical doctor can judge whether your disorder merits anti-anxiety medication.
  • TIP: Support groups and group therapy can help you feel less isolated by your anxiety.
  • Step 7: Work on it Work on your social skills a little every day: Strike up a conversation with a clerk, pay a stranger a compliment, speak up in class or at the office. Then take on bigger challenges, like eating in a restaurant alone.
  • FACT: 7 percent of American adults have social anxiety -- that’s 15 million people.

You Will Need

  • Perspective
  • Self-acceptance
  • Therapy
  • Support group
  • Anti-anxiety medication (optional)

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