This post is also available in Dutch.
As the government lifted most of the lockdown measures, many people have now returned to work in the office and are keen on gathering with friends and family. However, not everyone looks forward to getting back to “normal life.” Besides the concern for the infection, many people are scared of joining in social events again.
What is social anxiety
It’s completely normal for everyone to feel anxious, for example about giving a speech in front of an audience or going on a first date. There is, however, another form of anxiety, so-called social anxiety (also referred to social phobia in DSM-5), according to which simple daily interactions become sources of anxiety. People who suffer from social anxiety have some constant fear of being judged by others and eventually humiliated. Specifically, the socially anxious individuals often underestimate their performance and exaggerate the negative outcome, thus leading to excessive or unreasonable fear. Notably, social anxiety contributes to various psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, with the potential to impact an individual’s social functioning and quality of life.
How to overcome social anxiety
Depending on how much social anxiety influences your daily life, you may want to take different actions to prevent anxiety or at least reduce it to a minimal level. Doctors suggest some preventive measures: 1) ask for help as soon as possible: the earlier the better; 2) keep a journal: keep track of your emotions and mental state, as well as considering meditation; 3) set priorities: transfer your focus to the things you care about the most and the activities that you sincerely enjoy; 4) avoid substance abuse: do not intoxicate your body.
Social phobia or introversion
However, people don’t always avoid large gatherings because of social anxiety. Have you ever had a friend who seldom shows up at parties, but he or she sometimes does not show any anxiety when in a group, such as when giving a presentation? Some people simply enjoy solitude, or they prefer the company of just one – or two – people over large groups. These people are often referred to as introverts. Introversion is quite different from social anxiety. While the latter refers to a mental condition, introversion is a personality trait. As opposed to people who becomes anxious in public, introverts can engage in social contexts and they even show competitive level of creativity and leadership in some social settings.
So, if you don’t feel like engaging in social situations, do you have social anxiety or are you introverted? Notice whether you feel agitated or uneasy at the idea of joining in a social gathering, or whether you simply prefer activities by yourself or with a few friends. Lastly, remember to reach out for help if you consistently find it challenging to engage in social interactions.
Author: Ping Chen
Buddy: Martina Arenella
Editor: Marisha Manahova
Translation: Jill Naaijen
Editor translation: Wessel Hieselaar