When we may least expect it, we can experience moments of shyness. Almost without fail, these are temporary — and few and far between. Social anxiety, however, is much more than just occasional shyness. It’s a diagnosable disorder that can severely hamper your daily life. You may avoid social interactions or dread being seen eating or talking in public.
Life with social anxiety can be a blend of fears, worries, and expecting the worst. In some cases, social anxiety manifests in strong but highly irrational beliefs. You may see yourself as fat, ugly, or stupid — to name but three. Such beliefs are called dysmorphia.
Social Anxiety & Dysmorphia
A dysmorphia is a skewed perception or belief. It is a symptom of social anxiety. Unfortunately, dysmorphia can worsen or be worsened by other social anxiety behaviors.
Consider some of the common physical signs of social anxiety disorder:
- Digestive issues
- Shaking body and voice
- Shortness of breath, increased heart rate
- Heavy sweating
- Feeling dizzy
These outwards signs of anxiety can reinforce dysmorphia. You may become utterly convinced that everyone is noticing your discomfort. You may believe that they’re talking about you, mocking you, or judging you. As a result, you may believe that no one likes you. As a result, the idea of social contact becomes more and more unpleasant.
Now, let’s factor in the more emotional and/or behavioral symptoms of social anxiety, e.g.
- Fear of embarrassment
- Remaining quiet, sitting away from others
- Obviously worrying about every little detail
- Turning down social invitations
- Not making eye contact
A person with dysmorphia feels certain that they are viewed as weird or even “crazy.” As these skewed beliefs seem to be reinforced, it feels like your inability to be comfortable, included, and accepted among others is an undeniable fact. This process is called automatic negative thinking (ANTs).
Addressing ANTs & Social Anxiety
What can you do to cope? The goal is to help you see your world more rationally and realistically. It helps to try going “neutral” when it comes to describing what you see and feel and experience. In other words, set aside judgmental terms that can further embed the dysmorphias.
For instance, create a dialogue with yourself. Dispute the irrational beliefs intentionally. If you suddenly feel certain that people “hate” you, ask yourself this: What evidence do I have that you are hated?
You may be surprised to discover that concrete evidence does not exist. This frees you to further interrogate your inner critic. Put that niggling voice on the spot. Keep asking it for evidence. The search for proof requires you to reflect more fairly on yourself and the situation at hand. It also empowers you to analyze how these dysmorphias make you feel.
How do you feel when you believe you’re ugly? What happens inside when you doubt your intelligence or see everyone as stacked up against you? Do you like what you feel? If not, visualize how it would feel to dispute these beliefs. Allow yourself to savor the experience of cutting yourself some slack.
Replace Your Irrational Beliefs
Let’s say you choose to think that others are judging you all the time. You could flip the script and reframe it. Everyone has flaws and you’re no different. But, for certain, it feels so much better to not aim energy toward the idea that others can see your flaws.
Remind yourself: Celebrities, world leaders, and everyone has critics. Take a peek at any internet comments section to verify that no one is universally liked. What matters more is making deep connections with those who do like you.
Anxiety is the most common mental health problem. Initiating and maintaining relationships can be tough regardless of the circumstances. It’s important to know that you are not alone and help is available. Start with a safe, compassionate ally like a therapist. Please read more about anxiety treatment and reach out for a consultation to learn more about shifting your perspective and living the life you want.
Getting Started With Anxiety Counseling in Lakewood & Longmont Colorado
We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our website. We offer both in-person and online anxiety counseling. We’re open to whichever option you feel more comfortable with. We look forward to hearing from you!