Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Understanding Social Anxiety: Seeing the signs and methods of coping

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Feeling anxious every now and again as influenced by circumstances is one thing. But when you're always anxious in a "crowded" setting then you might be dealing with social anxiety. In fact, a venue doesn't even have to be crowded to warrant feelings of anxiety and fear of the other people.


Anxiety has many different categories, and phobias are one of these. As a whole, anxiety affects millions of people in the world, yet not everyone are getting the help they need to manage it. 



Let's have a closer look at social anxiety


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In short, social anxiety is feelings that overcome individuals when they are around other people. These can include but are not limited to shyness, worry, and difficulty speaking. In children, this may be a part of growing up, and they tend to "outgrow" it.


But when it persists and even becomes worse with time, then there are steps to help manage it. In bad cases, social anxiety tends to disrupt a person's life and makes it hard for them to be around people. It can easily lead to self-isolation and "disconnecting" with friends and family. This could have many negative mental effects on an individual.  


Some people experience the following social anxiety symptoms:



In some cases, the psychological symptoms are so severe the person may worry for days, even weeks before an event they have to attend. 


There is sometimes a need or reliance on alcohol to help muster up the courage to go somewhere or to "mix" with other people. Another common psychological fear is worrying you'll embarrass yourself in front of everyone. 



How does the nervous system influence this? 

The nervous system consists of a "parasympathetic" the one responsible for calming effects and the "sympathetic" nervous system which focuses on fight-or-flight. 


Parasympathetic responses


The aim of getting your anxiety under control is by stimulating this nervous system. This is what breathing techniques does as well as practicing sounds such as "Aum" (Om), singing, or humming which activates your vocal cords and stimulates the "vagus nerve".


When stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system it helps to slow down the the rapid heart rate and blood pressure drops. At the same time, the O2 levels of consumption decreases. All of these things taking place helps to clear the mind and allows it to become still or quiet.  



What can you do if you're having a panic attack?


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Stop for a moment and take a few deep breaths.


Breathing deeply stimulates dopamine and serotonin which helps the body to relax. At the same time deep breathing lowers cortisol or stress hormones in the body which are elevated under stressful situations. In this case, when you're experiencing a panic attack. 



What causes social anxiety? 


Oftentimes it's related to upbringing. Adults who were bullied as kids, often find it harder to cope with their anxieties. Another one with consequences that we often see is family conflict. No home is perfect, but if family conflict is severe for example parents getting a divorce, or often fighting it can lead to an individual developing emotional difficulties.


This comes in the form of depression and anxiety. Sexual abuse is another factor that leads to depression, loss of self-esteem, and anxiety to name a few.


Social anxiety can also be caused due to an imbalance of mood stabilisers in the brain. One of these hormones includes "serotonin." Various hormones (chemicals) influence mood and some control "fight-or-flight" sensors while others stimulate relaxation and calmness.  



Treatment and methods of coping with social anxiety


Social anxiety is not uncommon and based on statistics from "Our World Data" recorded in 2017, 2.8% are males and 4.1% are females. Roughly this indicates an international total of 284 million people with some sort of anxiety disorder. That being said, there are many options for treatment. Some individuals may have to change their lifestyle because these could have factors that trigger their anxiety.


Exercise

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Exercising is able to help increase uplifting mood chemicals which in turn reduces stress hormones like cortisol. It also helps to increase serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine is the body's "natural pain reliever. This has an effect by positively reducing inflammation in the body and thus pain related to stress such as headaches and tension or knots in the body. 


Prescribed medication

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The doctor may prescribe medication to help stabilise the chemicals in the brain and to help reduce anxiety and even symptoms of depression. Some meds may include fluoxitine, setraline, and buspirone, clomipramine, and selegaline to name a few.


These medications also have side effects as do all drugs. Some users experience dry mouth, low libido, nausea, dizziness, and headaches amongst others.



Alternative treatment/practice


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Breathing exercises are very effective in helping people to calm down even when in a state of shock. Regularly breathing properly can help to improve the body's response to certain situations.


Meditation is another effective way to instil a sense of calmness and clarity within the "whole person" since it effects the mind and body together. This, along with breathing exercises is a very good and natural way to combat anxiety, depression and stress. 


Teas, herbs and essential oils

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Aromatherapy has long been part of the medicinal history of mankind. In fact, this along with special herbs sourced from trees and plants bear potent properties. Chamomile tea for example, is known to help ease and relax the person drinking it. That's why this is often good at night time before you go to bed.


Herbs like lavender, roman chamomile, spearmint, Frankincense, and Myrrh are just some of the essential oils that can help you on your relaxing journey. 


Reduce your caffeine intake


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You know how it seems the logic thing to do and to sip some energy (high-caffeinated) drink to help feel more awake?


This can seem plausible after a restless night of no sleep. But what caffeine does is just aggravate the situation. Limit your caffeine consumed and try to keep away from energy drinks.


Foods rich in vitamin B are excellent to help boost your energy naturally. Some people rely on vitamin B supplements if they're not getting enough in their diet. As mentioned, exercise can also uplift mood as well as boos energy levels naturally. 


Enjoy some sunlight

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Sunshine helps our body to produce vitamin D which helps us maintain healthy bones as well as uplifting our mood. It will also help your body to produce melatonin (the hormone that stimulates sleep) so that you'll get a better night's rest. 


The conclusion on coping with social anxiety

Take things in your stride. Try and make breathing exercises part of your daily routine. In this way, you'll be lowering those stress hormones and will be able to manage the situation better.

It is also a good idea to practice other relaxing techniques such as meditation and yoga because this will also help your mental and physical well-being.

Speak to someone if your anxiety is overwhelming. It is important to get the help you need before it progresses.



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