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Transcript of Social Anxiety
What is social anxiety?
Like mentioned before, social anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, dread, or apprehension about social interaction and presentation. Often, there is a concern that one will be judged negatively by other people, regardless of whether this is actually the case. Social anxiety can range from mild and infrequent to being a major hindrance to your daily routine.
Social anxiety disorder is used to describe a level of social anxiety that is so distressing, excessive, and/or pervasive that it is significantly interfering with an individual’s quality of life.
Remember, just because you get shy or nervous occasionally does not mean you have social anxiety disorder. Many people are shy or self-conscious from time to time, but it does not get in the way of their normal functioning.
What triggers social anxiety?
Social anxiety can be triggered by two types of situations: interpersonal or performance.
How common is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is the most common anxiety disorder and the third most common mental disorder in the U.S. after depression and alcohol dependence. It often surfaces in adolescence or early adulthood, but can occur at any time, including early childhood. It is more common in women than men.
What if these steps don't help?
Each person is different and treatment needs vary between individuals. If self-help strategies are not working, you may want to consider individual or group therapy. Call or stop by the Counseling and Psychological Services Department on the second floor of the Health Center to make an appointment!
Counseling and Psychological Services
What can I do to reduce my social anxiety?
Challenge Negative Thought Patterns
Negative thoughts and beliefs contribute to social anxiety. You may find yourself thinking things like, “I know I’m going to end up looking like a fool” or “People will think I’m stupid”.
The first step is identifying those automatic negative thoughts that underlie your social anxiety. For example, you may be worried about an upcoming interview and your negative underlying thought is, “I’m totally going to blow it and then they will think I’m stupid.”
The next step is to analyze and challenge those thoughts.
Sometimes it helps to ask questions about your negative thoughts. For example, “Do I really know I’m going to blow it in the interview?” or “Even if I’m nervous, will people really think I’m stupid?”
Learn to Relax
When you get anxious, many changes happen. You start to sweat, breath quick and shallow breaths, and even shake. The first step to reversing or preventing these side effects of anxiety is to change the way you breathe. Slowing down your breath can help reduce or eliminate some of the physical side effects of anxiety.
Try the following breathing exercise:
• Sit comfortably with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
• Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for four seconds. The hand on your stomach should rise, while the hand on your chest should move very little.
• Hold the breath for two seconds.
• Exhale slowly through your mouth for six seconds, pushing out as much air as you can. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
• Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on keeping a slow and steady breathing pattern of 4-in, 2-hold, and 6-out.
If you practice this breathing exercise regularly, you can use it when in social situations to help keep calm.
Face Your Fears
Avoidance of your fears fuels further anxiety. Although it may be instantly gratifying to avoid those social situations, it also prevents you from ever feeling more comfortable. It may even increase your fear over time.
The key is to face your fears by taking small, manageable steps. You start with a situation that provokes only slight to moderate anxiety and work your way up to more intense fears. An internet site called Moodjuice has an excellent self-help guide to social anxiety which includes worksheets you can fill out to figure out what fear to tackle first and a step-by-step guide to do so.
Find it with the link below:
Build Better Relationships
Actively seeking out and joining supportive social environments can also be an effective way to reduce social anxiety. You can take an assertiveness or social skills class or join a club on campus. You might enjoy volunteering doing something you enjoy. This allows you to be around a small number of like-minded individuals to engage with.
Change Your Lifestyle
Although lifestyle changes alone are not enough to eliminate social anxiety, they can help ease some of the side effects.
• Avoid or limit caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase the physical symptoms of anxiety.
• Drink only in moderation: Drinking may seem tempting before a social encounter to calm your nerves, but it can increase the chances of an anxiety attack.
• Quit smoking: Nicotine is also a stimulant so it leads to higher anxiety.
• Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation can make you more vulnerable to anxiety.
We all feel shy or anxious occasionally, like when you have a presentation for class or you are going to interview for a new position. Sometimes people develop more intense and consistent feelings of uneasiness, dread, or apprehension regarding particular social interactions such as public speaking or in general with most or all social interactions.
What are the components of social anxiety?
There are three components of social anxiety: emotions and thoughts, physical symptoms, behavior.
Emotions and Thoughts
Excessive self-consciousness and anxiety in everyday social situations
Intense worry for days, weeks, or even months before an upcoming social situation
Extreme fear of being watched or judged by others, especially people you don’t know
Fear that you’ll act in ways that will embarrass or humiliate yourself
Fear that others will notice that you’re nervous
o Red face, blushing
o Shortness of breath
o Upset stomach, nausea
o Trembling or shaking (including shaky voice)
o Racing heart or tightness in chest
o Sweating or hot flashes
o Feeling dizzy or faint
Our anxiety is triggered by our interactions with others such as:
o Going on a date
o Starting a conversation with a stranger
o Asking for directions
o Starting a conversation
o Keeping a conversation going
o Attending a party
o Being interviewed for a job
o Holding eye contact
Our anxiety is triggered by potentially or actually being the focus of attention such as:
o Public speaking
o Public singing
o Eating at a restaurant alone
o Dropping something in a public place
o Spilling a drink
o Reading in front of others
o Voicing an opinion during a class or meeting
What causes social anxiety?
There is no single known cause for social anxiety, but it is likely caused by our genetic make-up, biological factors, and learning experiences.
Research on the genetic foundations of physical and mental health suggests that a tendency toward anxiety has a moderate level of heritability. In other words, if your parents or a close relative have increased anxiety, you are somewhat more likely to have increased anxiety.
Medications that are used for anxiety affect the levels of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain. However, it is unclear if differences in these chemicals actually can cause increased anxiety, but they may play a role.
The experiences in our life and how we react to them can contribute to the development of anxiety. If we feel like we have been repeatedly put in situations in which we feel different, singled out negatively, or feared the judgment of people, we can develop beliefs about ourselves and the world consistent with social anxiety.
As these experience continue, we may pay close attention to parts of the environment that reinforce our negative beliefs such as a public speaker that focuses on the two people in the audience who appear bored, while they may not notice the 38 others who are watching and nodding with great interest. As these beliefs and filters are strengthened, we start to act, feel, and think in an anxious way more automatically.
This sometimes leads to a negative outlook on even neutral situations and avoiding social situations altogether. Since we avoid social interactions, we also miss the opportunity to challenge our negative assumptions further strengthening the cycle.
There are some unhelpful thinking styles you may be using. Read the following and ask yourself if you are engaging in these types of thoughts:
Assuming you know what others are thinking and feeling and that they feel the same way you do.
Predicting the future, usually assuming the worst will happen. This sets you up for increased anxiety before anything happens.
Blowing things out of proportion. For example, if people notice you are nervous it will ruin the whole interview.
Assuming all people are focused on you in a negative way or what is going on with others has to do with you.
There are many other relaxation techniques that can help reduce overall anxiety levels. Check out the web address below to discover progressive muscle relaxation, body scan meditation, mindfulness, visualization meditation, yoga, and tai chi.
The following video discusses many of the topics addressed in this Prezi. It is about 15 minutes long and includes student perspectives and experiences with social anxiety.
o Avoiding social situations to a degree that limits your activities or disrupts your life
o Staying quiet or hiding in the background in order to escape notice and embarrassment
o A need to always bring a buddy along with you wherever you go
o Drinking before social situations in order to soothe your nerves