Bad Habits to Break If You Have Social Anxiety Disorder

Common Behaviors Can Harm your Treatment and Worsen Your Anxiety

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If you have social anxiety disorder (SAD), you likely engage in behaviors that can actually harm your treatment and make your anxiety even worse. By becoming aware of these actions and working to stop them, you can help yourself get on the path to recovery.

  1. Stop avoiding. Avoidance can come in many forms. Perhaps you drink at parties to get through the night. Maybe you read speeches word for word or avoid eye contact when you talk to people. There are many forms of avoidance, some of which are so subtle you might not even realize that is what they are. Avoidance only makes anxiety worse in the long run because you never have to truly handle the situation at hand.
     
  1. Stop thinking negatively. Negative thinking is at the root of social anxiety. Some of the most effective treatments for SAD, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are based on changing and working through negative thought processes. If you don't know where to start, consider keeping a thought diary to gain a better sense of how often you think negatively.
     
  2. Stop putting off getting help. If you have not been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, it is time to reach out for help. Although it will be difficult to take that first step, it will be one that will change your life. A good place to start is by describing your situation to your family doctor. If you feel like your social anxiety is holding you back from even doing that, write out a case history and present the written report in the appointment.
     
  3. Stop thinking that there is no hope. Perhaps you feel as though medication is too risky or that therapy won't work. What have you got to lose? There are established effective treatments for SAD and you owe it to yourself to give them a try.
     
  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparing yourself to others only makes you feel good when you are doing better than everyone else. There will always be someone who is more confident, more socially adept, or who has a larger circle of friends. Instead of comparing yourself to others, start trying to improve yourself. The yardstick of your success is how you are doing now compared to one year ago. Not how you compare to everyone else.
     
  1. Stop feeling like you can't change. Maybe you feel as though you were dealt a genetically bad hand. Maybe you think you are just too old to be helped. Whatever your reason for thinking you can't change, put it to rest. Learn to change the things you can, and accept those that you can't. You can improve your social skills with practice. You can become more comfortable in situations with proper exposure. There is always room for change.
     
  2. Stop predicting failure. Stop thinking about what you don't want to happen. Instead, start thinking about what you do want to happen. The surest way to ensure failure is to expect it. If you have an upcoming speech, visualize yourself as a confident speaker. If you are going to a party, imagine being the social butterfly. They might not happen, but at least you have given yourself a chance. Predicting failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
     
  3. Stop missing out on opportunities. Have you passed up a job promotion, dropped a college class or simply not been out of the house in weeks? If so, you are letting your social anxiety create missed opportunities in your life. You are more likely to regret the things that you didn't do or try, than the mistakes you made. Vow not to let social anxiety stop you from getting what you want out of life.
     
  1. Stop keeping it a secret. With social anxiety comes a lot of shame. Your worst fear is that other people will find out just how anxious you are in social situations. Why not start simply being honest? You don't have to come right out and tell perfect strangers that you suffer with severe social anxiety, but you can start small and mention to those closest to you that certain situations make you anxious. Over time, you might even become comfortable enough to share your whole story.
     
  2. Stop thinking that you are alone. One of the problems with being socially anxious is that you tend to spend less time talking with others and learning that they have problems too. It may seem that everyone else is always confident in social situations, but they are not. There are also a lot of people struggling with the very same issues as you. Visit message boards or read other people's stories of social anxiety to reinforce the fact that you are not alone.

Source:

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, 5th edition. 2013. 

 

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