Social anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety. It affects around one in ten people in the UK.
This disorder usually starts during the teenage years.
For some, it gets better with age. For others, it doesn’t ease without professional treatment.
WHAT DOES ANXIETY MEAN?Anxiety is the general term used to describe the symptoms caused by several medical conditions, including panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder. It affects around five per cent of the UK population.
Anxiety is the feeling of worry or fear, whether it be before an exam or a job interview, or some other situation. Some people find it hard to control these feelings, and it becomes more of a constant battle daily.
Most of us get a little nervous before attending a big event or going to a new place and meeting new people. However, those suffering from social anxiety get these feelings on a larger scale, before, during and after the event.
Social anxiety can affect self-confidence, relationships, work and everyday activities. It can also cause lack of sleep and is often paired with other mental health issues.
Most people feel anxious at certain times. It’s how we react to stressful events or changes that could significantly impact our lives. When you feel under threat, hormones are released to make your brain and body feel more alert. Once the threat has passed, different hormones are released to calm you down and help your brain and muscles to relax.
However, people with anxiety feel its symptoms more often and more acutely.
Anxiety can become a long-term problem if you are frequently in a state of worry, making it difficult to relax, sleep or switch-off. Although anxiety affects people differently, there are a few common signs to look out for, including:
- Strong, quick or irregular heartbeat
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Increased headaches
- Chest pains
- Lack of appetite
- Increased tension or nervousness
- Inability to relax
- Feeling tearful
- Feeling restless or unable to sleep
Anxiety can have a big impact on your behaviour. If you’re struggling to enjoy your leisure time or having difficulties switching off after work, you might be suffering from anxiety.
Likewise, if you have difficulty looking after yourself, are worried about trying new things or struggling with relationships, it’s worth getting yourself checked out.
WHAT IS AN ANXIETY ATTACK?Anxiety attacks, or panic attacks, are episodes of extreme and intense fear or worry. They often occur without warning and can last from five to 30 minutes.
Experiencing a panic attack can be a terrifying experience for the person and those around them. Symptoms include sweating, shaking, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, nausea and the feeling of losing control. Anxiety attacks can be caused by several triggers, which differ from person to person.
HOW TO COPE WITH ANXIETYIf anxiety is harming your overall health, there are several things you can do to reduce its symptoms. The first place to start is to see your GP. They will be able to assess and diagnose your condition and point you in the direction of the best places to get support.
These can include counselling and psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, or medication. There are several other ways to manage anxiety, including some self-help tips such as:
Keep a diary
Talk to someone you trust
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WITH ANXIETYIf you know someone with anxiety struggles, you can use several methods to help them, whether that be when they’re having a panic attack or just on a day-to-day basis. It will help if you can start to recognise the person’s triggers. That way, when a situation occurs, you can step in and either help them through it or help get them away from the trigger. For example, if you’re together at a public event, you could step outside with them for fresh air and calm down away from any crowds of people. If someone has a panic attack, you should validate them and how/why they feel the way they do and talk in a calming, soft voice.
Reminding them to breathe and even doing breathing exercises with them will help calm them down, as it shows them that they’re in a safe place and not alone. Keeping the person grounded will also help a lot. Physical touch like holding their hand or shoulders – if they’re comfortable with it – or talking about shared memories and experiences will take their mind off their anxiety.
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