There are quiet a number of people that suffer from something called social anxiety, also called social phobia. It is a type of anxiety disorder that causes from mild to extreme fear in social settings. It is a feeling of being out of control and nervous and even afraid of being in social situations.
Here is a short video documentary on social anxiety disorder by Katie Haptonstahl
People with this disorder have trouble talking to people and will avoid meeting new people or attending social gatherings. Like many other mental conditions, social anxiety disorder likely arises from a complex interaction of environment and genes. In a post on the Mayoclinic.org we read that possible causes include:
Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. However, it isn’t entirely clear how much of this may be due to genetics and how much is due to learned behavior.
A structure in the brain called the amygdala may play a role in controlling the fear response. People who have an overactive amygdala may have a heightened fear response, causing increased anxiety in social situations.
Social anxiety disorder may be a learned behavior. That is, you may develop the condition after witnessing the anxious behavior of others. In addition, there may be an association between social anxiety disorder and parents who are more controlling or protective of their children.
Although there are many different causes and scenario’s at the root cause of this disorder, most have a set of negative thoughts stemming from a lack of self-worth that causes fear, mainly fear of being judged and scrutinized by others. Even if they understand on a conscious level that their fears are irrational or unreasonable, there is something going on inside their brain that makes them feel powerless to overcome these emotions.
As with everything related to our thoughts, our mindset and the emotional triggers they create, there are different levels of anxiety. Some people are so anxious that they cannot force themselves to get into a social situation or appear in public without being medicated, and even then, they find it awkward and difficult. Some people even have panic attacks.
Several social situations can trigger negative thoughts that can swirl around and around in your head, making you more and more anxious about the social situation that may be coming up. You might even completely talk yourself out of attending, which can then lead to worse problems and even eventually lead to agoraphobia where your fear of social situations becomes so pronounced you can’t even leave the house.
Negative Thought Triggers
Situations that can trigger negative thoughts include:
Meeting new people
Being the center of attention
Other people observing you
Speaking in public
Meeting authority figures
Not knowing what to say
Feeling unsure about what to wear
Looking into other people’s eyes
Talking on the phone
The above might seem over the top if you do not suffer from social anxiety yourself, but the list can go on and on if you do. People with social anxiety start going over potential scenarios in their head the moment they realize they are going to have a social situation. They start turning each situation into a negative event.
How Negative Thoughts turn into Social Anxiety
When they meet a new person they imagine messing up the person’s name, forgetting their own name, or having bad breath. They imagine saying something “wrong” and being the butt of a joke or subject to criticism due to being “wrong.” They feel nervous even getting an award because people are looking at them and making them the center of attention. They start thinking that they did not deserve the award and that they are not worth it as they feel that many are better than them. Therefore they shouldn’t go collect or accept the award after all.
Then it just goes downhill from there. They can’t stop spinning every possible scenario into a bad thing until their heart is beating out of their chest, they can’t breathe right and finally they have a full-fledged panic attack. Due to this, they end up bringing part of what they thought true, becoming the center of attention due to the panic attack and then being judged as weird or a drama queen.
As you can see, thoughts have a lot of power even though they’re just thoughts and not even reality. When you start to realize how pervasive negative thoughts can cause social anxiety and make it worse, then you can also realize how turning your thoughts around to positive thoughts can make your social anxiety less.
What Can You Do To Combat Negative Thoughts Caused by Social Anxiety
One of the best solutions to fight negative thoughts caused by social anxiety is turning the negatives into positives. How do you do that? By being aware of your thoughts, and by seeing your thoughts as different from you, from who you really are. By looking at them like your brain is trying to play a game with you, and that you’ll be aware of that. And that you’ll take control as you understand that you have the power to transform your thoughts in what the “real you” wants.
Here is a powerful technique for instant relaxation and a 5 step exercise for how to transform negative thoughts in positive thoughts:
1. Catch your negative thoughts
The minute you notice you are obsessing about any present or future event, and your head is filling itself up with negative thoughts, it’s time to get out of your own head and do something different. Catch your negative thoughts like you are a playing child catching butterflies with a little net…
2. Realize these are just negative thoughts
As you are trying to catch your negative thoughts, you become more and more aware that these are just that, negative thoughts that are popping up in your mind, and as you try to catch them, you are making a game of it, and you’ll already feel instant release.
3. Delete, destroy or transform your thoughts
Realize you can delete, destroy or transform any thought you wish, as you are now in control of what you think and therefore can choose the thoughts you want to focus upon.
a) Delete negative thoughts
To delete negative thoughts, you can just simply imagine you are deleting your thoughts like you delete the letters you wrote on a typewriter, in your computer or on your smart-phone. Or you can just imagine a BIG RED BUTTON with the words DELETE that you hit every-time a negative thought pops up.
b) Destroy negative thoughts
You can squeeze and destroy your negative thoughts in anyway you see fit. If you are in an aggressive mood, you can imagine these thoughts are like glass images and you hit them with a hammer, or you can also imagine seeing yourself in a mirror — seeing yourself as the one you don’t like to see in a particular situation or behavior — and you take a big hammer and smash it into this mirror so the glass or mirror breaks into a million peaces…
Or if you are in a gentler mood, you can just watch your thoughts like little clouds and catch them between your both hands, and then blow them into the atmosphere where you wave them goodbye, knowing that the source energy of the universe will take care of them…
c) Transform negative thoughts
Imagine you have your own “Ghost Buster” transformation tool, where you suck up the negative thoughts, send them through a vortex, and spew out new totally transformed positive thoughts that you feel are opposite or more appropriate for the outcome you seek.
4. Practice deep breathing
Begin to notice your breathing, and if you can close your eyes now, start to feel your breath. Imagine breathing in relaxation, and breathing out all stress, anxiety and worries. Breathing in calmness, breathing out all tension. Notice the gentle rise and fall of effortless breathing that happens automatically, because the more you breath in this way, the easier it is to relax and let go…
You can relax now, knowing that all is good in this moment, and as you continue to breathing in relaxation, and breathing out all stress, anxiety and worries, the better and more relaxed you feel.
5. Focus on positive thoughts, quotes or affirmations
When you feel more and more relaxed you can choose to start focusing on positive thoughts, quotes or affirmations — you can keep those handy in a note you carry with you or in your smart-phone — and use every-time you want to move away from negative thoughts by choosing more pleasant thoughts and thoughts that make you feel good.
Take Action To Overcome Your Negative Thoughts and Feelings
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the above exercises, because the more you practice them, the better you will feel, and the more easy it will become to transform negative thoughts into positive thoughts.
Furthermore, take action in accordance to your worries, fears and anxieties. If your stress is because you’re not sure what to wear, find a good friend to help you pick something out. If you’re worried about bad breath, take some mints with you. If you are scared you will say someone’s name wrong, practice the names if you know who will be going.
There are always ways in which you can turn all negatives into positives but the most important thing is to realize that no one is perfect and due to that no one expects you to be perfect. Most people have some of the same worries that you do, they just don’t take it to the higher level.
And if you want to find out more about the causes of social anxiety disorder, you can read an interesting article published on Healthline.com here: