Social Anxiety and Comparison
By Gina Cipriano
There is no doubt that genuine social connections can serve as a protective factor from different mental health disorders. However, what does one do if these social connections are the very thing causing them distress? Social anxiety may occur as a result of a person thinking that their social abilities are not up to par to what is considered socially acceptable.
The American Psychiatric Association’s (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5) outlines some of the following symptoms of social anxiety:
- Fear of being:
- Intense stress about showing symptoms of anxiety to others
- Avoiding social situations
- Having problems with work, school, and familial areas of life
Social anxiety disorder can exacerbate and/or contribute to symptoms of other anxiety disorders (such as panic disorders), to substance use disorders (as a person may self-medicate as a way to put themselves at ease within social situations), and depressive disorders (Spence & Rapee, 2016). Further, it can result in people decreasing the amount of time they have to spend around others which could result in educational or occupational hardships.
How Can I Start to Reduce Social Anxiety?
- Work up to social events; like any great thing, reducing social anxiety entails practice!
- Make a list from one to ten with one being the least anxiety provoking social scenario to ten being the most
- Start doing your level one social fear until you can do so with minimal distress. Then, work your way up.
- It may be helpful when you first start to have flexibility to leave the social situation. For instance, this may entail brining your own form of transportation to a social event. This way, you can tell yourself that if you become too distressed, you can leave.
- Decrease Social Comparison!
- Social comparison may be a contributing factor to symptoms of social anxiety. Jiang (2020) found that Instagram use led to an increase in social comparison which caused an increase in social anxiety.
- Limiting social media use or only following people you find empowering may help reduce social anxiety.
- Try out Talk Therapy! Talk Therapy can help with the following (Hofmann, 2007):
- Decrease ruminative (repetitive) thinking following a social event
- Clarify goals for what a successful social event would entail
- Assist in emotional regulation
- Help a person reality test by engaging in social mishaps so that they can recognize the outcome is not as negative as they perceived it to be
- Develop ways to manage somatic symptoms of anxiety
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
Hofmann, S. G. (2007). Cognitive factors that maintain social anxiety disorder: A comprehensive model and its treatment implications. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 36(4), 193-209. https://doi.org/10.1080/16506070701421313
Spence, S. H., & Rapee, R. M. (2016). The etiology of social anxiety disorder: An evidence-based model. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 86, 50-67. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2016.06.007
If you are struggling with social anxiety in Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter, call us to find a helpful therapist.