#3 Face Your Fears
One of the most helpful things you can do to overcome social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is to face the social situations you fear rather than avoid them. Avoidance keeps social anxiety disorder going.
Avoidance leads to more problems
While avoiding nerve-wracking situations may help you feel better in the short term, it prevents you from becoming more comfortable in social situations and learning how to cope. In fact, the more you avoid a feared social situation, the more frightening it becomes.
Avoidance may also prevent you from doing things you’d like to do or reaching certain goals. For example, a fear of speaking up may prevent you from sharing your ideas at work, standing out in the classroom, or making new friends.
Challenging social anxiety one step at a time
While it may seem impossible to overcome a feared social situation, you can do it by taking it one small step at a time. The key is to start with a situation that you can handle and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations, building your confidence and coping skills as you move up the “anxiety ladder.”
For example, if socializing with strangers makes you anxious, you might start by accompanying an outgoing friend to a party. Once you’re comfortable with that step, you might try introducing yourself to one new person, and so on.
Working your way up the social phobia “anxiety ladder”
- Don’t try to face your biggest fear right away. It’s never a good idea to move too fast, take on too much, or force things. This will backfire and reinforce your anxiety.
- Be patient. Overcoming social anxiety takes time and practice. It’s a gradual step-by-step progress.
- Use the skills you’ve learned to stay calm, such as focusing on your breathing and challenging negative assumptions.