My Anxiety Plan for Social Anxiety Disorder
The following strategies are designed for you to use as you begin to tackle Social Anxiety Disorder. These strategies are best used for adults with mild-moderate signs of this type of anxiety. For individuals with more severe symptoms or who have been diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, we recommend treatment with a mental health professional, although MAP strategies can be used at home to support your therapy work.
Step 1. Helping you become an expert on anxiety
This is an important first step, as the information outlined in this step can help you understand what is happening when you experience anxiety. Learning that the worries and physical feelings you are experiencing have a name -anxiety- and that millions of other people also have anxiety, can be a great relief. To become an expert on anxiety you will want to read about the facts and learn important information. In addition, you might find it helpful to start to track your own symptoms to better understand the physical, cognitive, and behavioural parts to your type of anxiety and how this affects you. Please view the following links: ABC's of Anxiety: Understanding How Anxiety Works & Anxiety 101: What You Need to Know About Anxiety & Anxiety 102: More Facts & Fight-Flight-Freeze & When Anxiety Becomes a Problem: What’s Normal and What's Not
Step 2: Learning the facts about Social Anxiety Disorder
Reading about the information outlined on the social anxiety disorder main page can help you feel less afraid of what is happening to you. After all, knowledge is power.
The following list includes some facts and highlights common to individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder:
- People with social anxiety tend to fear and avoid social situations. They are very concerned that they will do something embarrassing, or that others will judge them. It is normal to feel anxious in social situations from time to time. For example, most people feel anxious when they have to speak in front of a large group. However, social anxiety becomes a problem when it causes distress and gets in the way of your ability to function and enjoy life.
- There are two types of situations that individuals with social anxiety tend to fear: performance based, and, interpersonal interactions.
- Some common examples of fearful social situations are: talking to co-workers, speaking in a meeting, going to parties, saying “no” or refusing something, eating in public, talking on the phone, and more.
- People with social anxiety often report unwanted physical symptoms of anxiety that can include: blushing, sweating, increased heart rate, shaking, dry mouth, difficulty making eye contact, and more.
- It is not uncommon for people to fear some social situations and feel quite comfortable in others. For example, some people are comfortable spending time with friends and family, and interacting socially with co-workers but are very fearful of performance situations, such as participating in business meetings or giving formal speeches. Also, some people fear only a single situation (such as public speaking), while others fear and avoid a wide range of social situations.
Step 3: Creating your Social Anxiety Disorder MAP
The best way to help deal with social anxiety disorder, is to have access to tools that can evaluate and challenge your worries and change your problem behaviours. These tools are intended to increase your ability to tolerate anxiety, rather than to eliminate anxiety. Anxiety exists everywhere, and therefore it is an illusion to believe we can eliminate the source and experience of anxiety. It is far more effective to have tools to tolerate and cope, rather than to control and escape. For Social Anxiety Disorder, you might want to use any or all of the following tools to create your My Anxiety Plan (MAP). These tools are listed in a recommended order, although proceeding in this order will depend on your needs and interests. There are many effective tools in this section, although Facing My Fears, and, Helpful Thinking will be two of the most useful tools to provide you with much needed relief from your worry.
- Calm Breathing
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Helpful Thinking for Social Anxiety
- Challenging Negative Thinking
- Cognitive Coping Cards
- Exposure Therapy for Social Anxiety
- Facing Your Fears: Exposure
- Overcoming Perfectionism
- Relapse Prevention
- Rewarding Bravery
- Tolerating Uncertainty
Final point: Although increased knowledge and the many tools available on this website can be very effective in helping you to manage your social anxiety disorder, sometimes it is not enough. Some adults have very severe anxiety, and despite all their best efforts, they might still be struggling daily with anxiety symptoms. If this is the case for you, we recommend you seek professional help through a consultation session with your family doctor, psychiatrist, or a psychologist/mental health worker.