My interest in helping other people stems from my own social anxiety and self-medication, growing up in the seventies. My experience was not uncommon. Previous generations often had it much worse. People were confronted by all kinds of baffling and highly restrictive social conventions in the age before the ‘classless society’. And if you go back further, to the stone-age, wariness of strangers was a survival issue. When a new person turned up unannounced in your cave, chances were they were planning to eat you or mate with you. Not surprisingly, therefore, we all have an in-built alarm system. But when the alarm goes off at a business meeting or a social event it can be inconvenient and sometimes downright unnerving.
Like all forms of anxiety, the social variety can attach itself to any context whilst leaving the sufferer blissfully untroubled in other, similar situations. In addition, for the extroverts amongst us who also experience social anxiety, it can be deeply confusing. How come I can stand up and perform poetry in front of hundreds of people but often want to run away and hide at small social gatherings?
Put simply, anxiety of any kind is a bio-chemically induced state of mind. For whatever reason we learn to trigger the anxiety state in response to a person, place or perceived situation. There does not actually have to be any real threat. At some time in the past, when we learnt the response for the first time, there may have been a real threat although more likely, we just thought there was. Now the anxiety just kicks off automatically. And it can be pretty unpleasant. As with all anxiety, the whole body-mind system is affected. Your heart rate increases, temperature goes up, some people feel sick or unbearably tense. Often sufferer’s find it difficult to focus or even string sentences together which of course compounds their distress.
Many resort to alcohol which does actually reduce social inhibition but has other less desirable effects. That was certainly my pattern as a younger man. Others withdraw, maybe gradually at first, but over time they go out less, see fewer people and eventually often become quite depressed. The trick is to get help early because these issues can be sorted pretty quickly.
Some people get stuck on the idea that there is a genetic element to social anxiety. The truth is, the jury is out. You might be genetically wired to be a little more threat-sensitive in social interactions but actually deciding whether you are or not is scientifically impossible and it is also really unhelpful.
The fact is that to sustain anxiety you have to be actively doing something, albeit unconsciously. This is where NLP and hypnosis are so much more effective than any other form of therapy. Whatever you do, find a decent well qualified NLP practitioner and hypnotherapist first before ever considering drug therapy, prescription based or otherwise. Make sure you get one with insurance and proper qualifications. CBT can be useful for some people too. I would avoid counselling for anything anxiety related simply because people suffering from anxiety often benefit from a fairly direct, even confrontational approach. Counselling by its very method tends to lead clients deeper into what they are experiencing. If you are trying to express grief at some personal loss then counselling is very powerful. Hypnosis is very powerful at treating anxiety for the simple reason that you cannot be relaxed and anxious at the same time. It is a physical impossibility.
Using NLP and hypnosis I help clients to re-programme their brain to prompt a more relaxed and resourceful state in response to the social situations that have been triggering their anxiety. If necessary I will also go to work on any unhelpful beliefs that have been sustaining the anxiety. Most social anxiety is a consequence of experiences in childhood and adolescence when we are very much more self-conscious. Social anxiety is a hangover from some of those early and often faltering steps into the world of socialisation. It is extremely common for people to develop all kinds of self-limiting and debilitating beliefs about themselves which they then lock away in their unconscious mind and which continue to stoke up the unnecessary fears often decades later.
The tragedy is that social anxiety can blight or even destroy people’s lives. It’s a tragedy because the treatment is so simple and so often highly effective. It does not even cost that much when you weigh the costs against the misery that many continue to endure. Do not wait until you have an alcohol/drug problem or have turned your social phobia into full blown depression or agoraphobia.