Fellow social anxiety sufferers, the holidays are upon us!
Christmas for most is a magical time of the year where family and friends get together, exchange gifts and generally enjoy each others company. But for those that suffer from social anxiety disorder, Christmas namely consists of a number of social situations and events that they would like nothing more than to avoid.
The holiday season is also a time of year where our emotions of love and joy are heightened – which is great, right? For me.. Not so much.
As with anything, with the good comes the bad. Along with the positive feelings that most associate with Christmas, for the emotionally susceptible there also comes increased anxiety and grief. It’s the end of a year and re-uniting with family and friends to discuss the years events brings on a tonne of nostalgia. And sometimes not the good kind.
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Social Anxiety and Christmas
There are work Christmas parties, Christmas lunches with friends, Christmas dinners with family, shopping trips to buy presents.. All of which are handled with ease by you’re average person.
Socially anxious people however have a different experience entirely. Christmas is often more about coming up with excuses not to attend these said social functions. I know that I start to reel off excuses in my head as soon as I find out about any Christmas get-togethers. As a shy person, I’m often preoccupied with thoughts of self-consciousness and general insecurity. I always feel like others are looking at me with scrutiny, or that I’m not meeting their expectations.
What I always fail to realize is that I’m probably not the only one feeling awkwardly uncomfortable in social situations. Logically, I know that – but in the height of my social anxiety, it’s a thought I just can’t conceive of.
A Run-Down of Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety is one of the types of anxiety disorders and is a form of excessive self-focus – namely, a preoccupation with your thoughts, feelings and physical reactions to social events or situations. It is characterized by feelings of overwhelming anxiety, self-consciousness and general discomfort in social situations. It interferes with the ability to enjoy oneself, or even to perform at the level we are truly capable of. Essentially, such negativity is placed on social events that it’s only a matter of time before a person with social anxiety disorder begins to avoid social occurrences as much as humanly possible.
Sometimes social anxiety can be limited to only one kind of situation – such as a fear of public speaking or eating or drinking in front of others. A person with severe social anxiety disorder however may experience symptoms almost every single time they’re around others. Physical social anxiety symptoms often include blushing, sweating, rapid heart beat, nausea and dizziness – just to name a few. Generally, there is great apprehension felt when it comes to being around others, as well as meeting new people, for fear of being rejected or making a fool of themselves. This is due to an almost ever-present feeling of anxiety.
Avoidance patterns are usually developed to make a person with social anxiety disorder’s world smaller and “safer”. Without treatment, social anxiety disorder negatively interferes with normal routine – be it school, work, pursuing hobbies and also relationships, romantic or otherwise. I’ll be the first to admit that having S.A.D. does indeed make the world a smaller and lonelier place.
Treatment Options for Social Anxiety Disorder
Thanks to modern technology, treatment options for S.A.D. have come a long way. Known as the go-to standard of treatment, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is most commonly used to treat those with situational anxiety. That is, anxiety tied to a particular event or situation. CBT helps to change the way a person thinks, behaves and deals with their anxiety. It encourages rational thinking and assists in helping to stop avoidance tendencies. It teaches the mind and body to react differently to situations and essentially desensitizes a person through exposure.
For extreme generalized anxiety disorder, CBT may be combined with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication therapy. Counseling often improves self-esteem and social skills, and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, may also help a person coping with social anxiety disorder.
Although there are no stand out causes of S.A.D., research suggest that biological, psychological and environmental factors may play a role in it’s development. Vague much? But it’s true. Whilst social anxiety cannot be prevented, seeking help as soon as any symptoms surface can give you a huge leg-up on overcoming social anxiety and make therapy and any medication more effective.
Say “Bah, humbug!” to S.A.D. this Christmas!
When the holiday parties start rolling, this year I’ll be saying “Bah, humbug!” to S.A.D. Will you?
Here are my social anxiety tips for Christmas:
- DO physically mail Christmas cards to friends
Whilst it is easier to send out a generic mass Christmas email to your friends and work colleagues, or even just post a status update on Facebook, mailing actual Christmas cards shows thought and effort and will certainly be appreciated by the friends you are unable to see during the holidays due to social anxiety.
- DO tell your friends the truth
Explaining social anxiety to friends can be a difficult task, but it is an important one. If you really feel that you are unable to attend a particular Christmas event that friends have arranged due to your anxiety, tell them the truth. If they value your friendship as much as you value theirs, they will understand and support you!
- DON’T put too much pressure on yourself
Christmas is a time of year to celebrate life, friends and family – but be sure not to put excess pressure on yourself. Do what you are able to and be proud of the things that you do accomplish.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from AKTC!