Lysiane Sublet – Switzerland
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder in which the person has an extremely fear or nervousness in social situations as speaking in front of others, being the center of attention or having a date, for example. The person is scared of being judged, criticized or looking bad. Anticipatory anxiety is also present in social anxiety. An event that is simple for most of people can be very stressing for people who suffer from this disorder. They can get nervous just because they have a phone call to make and stress about what they are going to say to their interlocutor. Another example can be when the person has to
make a presentation in public. They get nervous weeks before, sometimes months before and are like paralyzed just by thinking at this event.
What can explain social anxiety?
There is a model, which is called skills deficit model that assumes that the anxiety in social situations is caused by a lack of social skills. The result of that is the establishment of a vicious circle. Because of their inappropriate social skills, people with social anxiety are getting in aversive social situations and the experience of bad social situations will convince them a little bit more every time that they do not fit in society norms and that they are not made for social situations.
Another approach, the cognitive self-evaluation model, states that this anxiety results from the representation of the person’s inadequacies. A research proved that socially anxious people estimate their social skills as more negative that they are in reality, have also a more negative perception of themselves and evaluate the regard of others as less positive that he really are.
A third model, the classical conditioning model, assumes that social anxiety is conditioned when some neutral stimuli are matched with aversive social consequences.
For example, someone makes a class presentation and a classmate laugh during his presentation. Maybe his classmate laughed because he wasn’t listening and was talking about something funny with his neighbor, but the person who does the presentation might think that he makes fun of him because his presentation is bad or because he is bad. This person will associate presentation in public with a consequence of humiliation.
Finally, there is a fourth approach, the personality trait approach, that suggests that social anxiety is just a personality trait. Some person might have a disposition to shyness and anxiety.
Are there any treatments to social anxiety?
Treatments involve especially psychological counseling, to find some ways to reduce the anxiety in social situations. Just taking medicine, like antidepressants, is not enough because it won’t help to reduce anxiety, it will just stabilize it and that is not the purpose of the treatment. Psychological counseling and medicines can be used together for a long-term efficiency, but at one point it is better to stop medicines, in order to be able to live without taking any pills and just be well in our skin by working on how accepting ourselves and do not be afraid by the regard of other anymore. The more important thing is to be ourselves and to enjoy it.