Ask people what they fear the most and many of them will say “speaking in public”. In surveys which ask people about their fears, about one person in five reports extreme fear of public speaking. Shyness and other forms of social anxiety are common – and they prevent people from fulling experiencing life.
Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, refers to a special kind of anxiety that people feel when they are around other people. It is associated with concerns about being scrutinized. Shyness and social anxiety are closely related, but social anxiety includes other situations such as speaking in public, taking tests, sports performance, and dating. Closely related to the concepts of shyness and social anxiety are embarrassment and shame.
Embarrassment is what a person feels when something unexpected happens and draws unwanted attention (such as knocking over a glass of water in a restaurant). This creates a temporary feeling of discomfort. Shame, on the other hand, is more long-lasting . Shame is a feeling that comes from being disappointed in oneself.
Identifying the Patterns of Social Anxiety
People often see the distressful symptoms of social anxiety as their enemy, so they try to avoid thinking about it. In order to overcome social anxiety, however, it is necessary to “embrace” the anxiety. That is, sufferers need to identify the features of their anxiety and acknowledge these characteristics as their own. When people fully understand a problem, they are better able to cope with it. Shutting out the problem, on the other hand, keeps it in the dark where it is difficult to work with.
People often become aware of anxiety by identifying I their physical reactions, which include a racing heartbeat, flushing, upset stomach, excessive perspiration, dizziness, poor concentration, and shaky hands. It is important to understand whether these physical reactions take place before (anticipatory anxiety), during, after the anxiety-provoking situation.
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