Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Managing social anxiety during the 'social season'

This time of year is popular for halloween parties, fireworks parties and, dare we say it, Christmas parties - yes they are not far away! And of course, parties mean social interactions. While many people look forward to a good knees up, those with social anxieties may experience feelings of dread as the party season approaches.

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is a particular type of anxiety that involves extreme shyness and feelings of anxiety specifically relating to social interactions. People with this type of anxiety typically feel self-conscious around others and may feel inferior or judged. Social anxiety is extremely common and may accompany other issues such as depression.

Types of social anxiety

Specific Social Phobia: While some people may struggle in a party environment, some sufferers of social anxiety are able to mix with people and socialise normally in most instances. However they may struggle with a particular aspect of social interaction, such as public speaking, or eating in front of others and fear that something is going to go wrong.

General Social Phobia: Other people may become anxious whenever they are around others. They may feel judged or watched and this can be incredibly disabling for them. Often people with this type of social phobia feel the only way to cope with their feelings is to avoid social situations. As a result they may struggle to form long-term relationships.

The symptoms of social anxiety

There are many physical symptoms of social anxiety and everyone is different, but some of the most common symptoms include: sweating, blushing, trembling, dry mouth, finding it hard to breathe, and palpitations.

Those with social anxieties often over analyse social situations that are coming up worrying about what could go wrong. Or they may dwell on past situations and think what they could have done better, or what others thought of them.

People with such anxieties are usually aware of them and may use a number of coping mechanisms  to alleviate the symptoms such as alcohol, drugs or avoidance of the social situation altogether.

What is the cause of social phobia?

It is not fully understood why some people get socially anxious. It can run in families but it is not known whether this is due to biological or social factors. Bullying or teasing at school can also have a bearing on how we interact as adults, as can how we were treated by family and friends as children.

Seeking help for social anxiety

The good news, if you're reading this as a sufferer of social anxiety, is that social anxieties can be effectively treated. There are a number of approaches you can take to dealing with a social anxiety from developing your social skills to make you feel more in control to self-help books and prescription drugs.

One popular, evidence-based, drug-free approach commonly used in the NHS for anxiety is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).

CBT has been shown to be very successful for treating people with anxiety related issues. CBT involves looking at the relationship between how you think and how you feel. By learning CBT techniques, people can learn to recognise unhelpful thought patterns and work to change these to improve their mood.

Managing anxiety using CBT techniques workshops

First Psychology is running workshops on managing anxiety using CBT skills later this month in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The workshops will be led by Tom Seath. Tom is a CBT practitioner with a wealth of experience working with people using CBT techniques for a wide range of issues including anxiety. Participants of these short workshop will take away a toolkit of techniques and skills that they can use to reduce their feelings of anxiety in difficult situations.

Further details of our workshops on Managing Anxiety Using CBT Skills >

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Dealing with Anxiety

Anxiety is the body's way of dealing with something stressful. Feeling anxious in a stressful situation is a common and natural human reaction. There are a whole range of situations that can bring about stress and anxiety: from going on holiday or getting married to a job interview or preparing to perform on stage. Anything that may be stressful (no matter how much you are looking forward to it) can bring about anxiety too.

Common symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety affects different people in different ways, but some of the most common symptoms are a dry mouth, pounding heart, feeling breathless, fatigue or difficulty sleeping, dizziness and headaches, lack on concentration, needing the toilet frequently, constant worrying, irritability, and nausea.

Why do we get anxiety?

There is no one reason why people get anxious as anxiety is specific to each individual. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Feeling out of control - general worries about routine events (often called Generalised Anxiety Disorder)
  • Finding social situations difficult and stressful (often called Social Anxiety)
  • Anxiety relating to past events and worrying that these may be repeated in the future (often called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Managing anxiety using CBT 

If you're wondering how to manage anxiety in yourself or someone you know, it can be quite a scary prospect. Often people worry they will make things worse. It is important to focus on the benefits of learning to manage anxiety. Think about all the things you would find more pleasant / enjoyable if you were able to manage them.

One approach that is commonly used for treating anxiety is cognitive behaviour therapy. Cognitive behaviour therapy, or CBT as it is more commonly known, focuses on how thinking patterns can create and maintain problems. By learning to identify and change our thinking patterns, we can learn to manage feelings of anxiety and stress.

Learning CBT techniques can be extremely helpful in managing anxiety and indeed CBT is the mainstream treatment for depression and anxiety in the NHS as it has been shown to be as effective as medication for these issues.

Workshop: Taking Charge of anxiety 

First Psychology's Tom Seath, experienced CBT  psychotherapist will facilitate two workshops this autumn. The workshops taking place in Edinburgh and Glasgow will look at anxiety and how it affects us and introduce participants to CBT techniques which can be used to effectively manage anxiety and anxiety provoking circumstances.

Why not book a place and join us to find out how to start managing your anxiety!

Click here for more details of our Taking Charge of Anxiety workshops >