Social anxiety can be crippling for those who experience it, and for the friends and family of those who suffer with anxiety it can leave them feeling helpless and unsure how to support their loved ones.
But, what if I told you that there was a simple secret to overcoming social anxiety?
A recent study at Toronto’s Ryerson University suggests that the secret, isn’t a secret after all. The key is simply to accept that you’re anxious.
It sounds simplistic, but as we look further into this psychological study, you will learn how to help you or your loved one combat social anxiety.
Explaining social anxiety
Unless you’ve experienced social anxiety, it’s difficult to truly understand the crippling nature of it. Put simply, the person becomes extremely distressed and often impaired (freezing, having a panic attack) because of a fear that they are being judged negatively by those around them. This can occur anywhere, at anytime.
This was perfectly described by Claire Warner:
“It’s less ‘having trouble starting conversations’ and more ‘worrying so much about going to a party that you have a panic attack and stay home.’”
You might be wondering by now how simply knowing you are anxious can help you deal with anxiety. Here’s how:
You need to ACT
Historically, social anxiety disorder has been treated using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is a common, talking based, type of therapy which allows the person to become aware of any inaccurate perceptions they may have about themselves and social situations.
In fact, this method has proved so popular in treating social anxiety disorder that a recent study claimed that CBT was the only method that should be used.
So what can this new research add to CBT?
The focus of the psychological study talks about an off-shoot of CBT, known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). They claim that by ‘accepting the feelings of anxiety you have, it may be easier for you to change them.’
Simply put, what the study says is that if you accept that you are feeling anxious, it may be more straightforward for you to do something about it.
What practical steps can you take to ACT?
The principles of the ACT method allows you to begin to get more comfortable with the way you feel when you are anxious, and begin to develop coping mechanisms based on the situation.
You are probably asking, what’s new about that?
The difference is that instead of trying to convince someone who has social anxiety that their feelings are wrong and the situation shouldn’t induce anxiety, instead ACT acknowledges that they will feel anxious and tries to think of steps they can take to either change their feelings or come up with a plan to get through the situation and accomplish their goal.
To explain it simply:
CBT: This situation isn’t one that should be making you anxious, you need to act to change your mindset.
ACT: You feel anxious in this situation, let’s come up with a plan so you can still participate.
The ACT acronym, as noted by Psychology Today, can be used as a guide to help you remember the steps to take when you find yourself approaching or in an anxiety inducing situation:
Step one: Accept your reactions and be present
Step two: Choose a direction
Step three: Take action
Remember, you need to Accept, Choose & Take. You need to ACT to cope with social anxiety.
This advice can never replace the support of a qualified professional and we always recommend reaching out to suitable person for advice and guidance when dealing with social anxiety and other anxiety disorders.
Start thinking, how can you use this information to start winning the battle against social anxiety?