If you are on your way to a party with friends—do you begin to feel nervous or experience nausea? Do you recognize that this unsettled feeling is excessive? Have you been withdrawing from friends to avoid this distress? If any of these scenarios resonate with you, you may be experiencing social anxiety. Avoidance behaviors associated with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) can significantly interrupt a person’s routine, occupational functioning, and/or relationships (American Psychological Association, 2013).
Approximately 15 million adults, or 7% of the United States population, is diagnosed with SAD (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, n.d.). Whether you are clinically diagnosed or experience some symptoms of SAD, there are platforms available where you can take courses on strategies to help manage social anxiety. One LMS for healthcare industry topics such as this is CertCentral. With CertCentral, one can quickly design and deliver psychoeducational courses online to those that want to learn skills regarding coping strategies, or any other topic of interest. Below you will find vital information that can be included in a course regarding how to manage social anxiety.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
The American Psychological Association (2013) defines SAD by the following criteria:
- Persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be embarrassing and humiliating.
- Exposure to the feared situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally predisposed Panic Attack.
- The fear is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the social situation.
- The feared situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety and distress.
- The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared social or performance situation(s) interferes significantly with the person's normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
- The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting 6 or more months.
- The fear or avoidance is not better accounted for by something else (e.g., substance abuse or another mental health condition)
Tips to Manage Social Anxiety
- Expose yourself to situations that may be anxiety provoking. Create an exposure hierarchy: a list where you write down situations that cause you anxiety, in order of severity (Tartakovsky, 2018). Start with situations that elicit a small amount of anxiety, and then gradually introduce more and more anxiety-provoking situations into your routine. Over time, you will be desensitized to these situations as you learn that you can tolerate being in social situations and maybe even enjoy yourself.
- Practice deep breathing. Inhale to the count of four through your nose. Your abdomen should rise while your chest remains still. Then exhale to the count of four and watch as your abdomen slowly flattens. Practice this while sitting or standing, at any point throughout your day. When you have an upcoming social encounter that causes anxiety, notice your breathing. It may be rapid as your heart rate increases. Once you notice this, switch to a deep breathing exercise. This should help ease your anxiety (Markway, 2013).
- Practice greetings and endings to interactions. For example, practice entering a conversation by inquiring about what the group is already discussing—and practice ending a conversation in kind, effective ways. Additionally, practice other communication skills such as active listening, asking open-ended questions, and sharing stories about yourself that help people feel closer to you (Cuncic, 2018). Practicing these skills will help you feel more prepared and less anxious for social interactions.