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Social Anxiety VS General Anxiety

Lindsey Kingsley MA LPC will share with us the difference between Social Anxiety and General Anxiety. Knowing the difference changes the approach and treatment. Learns useful tips if you have Social Anxiety or General Anxiety.

What is social anxiety? I.e. symptoms

What is the difference between social anxiety and general anxiety disorder?

How do people cope with social anxiety?

What does treatment look like for social anxiety?

Myths about social anxiety? 

What are common types of social anxiety?

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Lindsey Kingsley, MA, LPC

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Video Transcript

Laurie: Hi, my name is Laurie Groh. I'm co-owner at Shoreside Therapies. Today we have Lindsey Kingsley again with us. Today we're going to talk about the difference between social anxiety and general anxiety, and I'm really excited about this. So thank you, Lindsey.

Lindsey: Awesome! Yeah, thank you so much. Yeah, so today we are going to talk about social anxiety, I'm very passionate about anxiety and social anxieties. So I thought we could just learn more about it today and try to understand it a little bit better. So many times, a little bit.. just the differences, there's like a couple of nuances between general anxiety and social anxieties. So with general anxiety, it's more than usually one situation. It's like multiple life areas, so that could be things such as worrying about job stress, relationships, parenting, children, just different aspects of your life. It's kind of almost like spilled water- it's just kind of everywhere. With social anxiety, it's more primarily around the relationships or social situations, such as like being scrutinized or judged, perceptions of others, or negative assumptions and feedback. So there's just a little bit of differences in how we treat them.

Laurie: So if you have social anxiety, it's going to be really tied, though, with social interactions, but the relationships could be part of it as well. And if someone has general anxiety, it might spill over to a whole lot of different areas. Somebody might have social anxiety as well as general anxiety, I'm guessing, two, right?

Lindsey: Absolutely you can have both.

Laurie: All right, so what is social anxiety?

Lindsey: Yeah, so different symptoms could be usually fear rejection about one or more social situations where an individual might fear, like we said, potential rejection, judgment, showing any anxiety symptoms, things like stuttering, stammering, maybe forgetting your words or just kind of like a loss of words or getting flustered and usually that leads to general avoidance of situations that cause fear. So in kiddos and children it might look like freezing, even tantrums, kind of shrinking up in themselves, or not speaking in social situations like school or becoming mute even so, they might just not say anything. And with adults it might look like more shyness, just keeping to yourself, not speaking up when you need something, or just kind of just like a paralyzing sense of fear about approaching others. It might be like keeping a distance or declining invitations to meet up with people.

Laurie: So there is like that.. those physical symptoms there. Then maybe that avoidance that goes with it of not actually going towards some of those social interactions, and then you might notice some things in yourself, or if you're looking at a child, you might notice that in the kid as well, of maybe being very, very quiet, and that's not what they're normally like at home, that sort of thing?

Laurie: Yeah!

Laurie: All right, let's move on to what's the difference between social anxiety and general anxiety, and we've kind of answered that one already, so I wonder if there's anything else to add to that?

Lindsey: Yeah! We did answer that one, so we'll do the coping next.

Laurie: That sounds good.

Lindsey: So how people cope. So generally, the ways that we cope can be kind of ineffective, but there just... that's just how that starts. So it can look like just avoiding those situations, could be withdrawing from others. So maybe just kind of like pulling back, could be isolating to certain areas. We'll say like someone's in a group of people, they might just be hanging out in one area of a large group, lots of overthinking and worrying about what we're going to say, what we're going to do, things like that. So we call that like mentally preparing in your head. Maybe what you might say, maybe like going over a script, of this is what I'm going to say and then going over that again, and it's repetitive. We might use humor to break the ice within situations and just generally, we might fear that our body language, things like that, or mannerisms, might be awkward or weird. It's kind of the way you're standing and that. So sometimes the problem is, though, it's when we're thinking about like I don't want to come off weird and then, like you know, I might be standing somewhere and doing something that might actually be awkward and be perceived, as you know, awkward or anxious, so then that causes more anxiety.

Laurie: Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. So those ways that people cope, those seem like they could be positive, positive things for sure and learning, like, for instance, if somebody came in. They were saying I have social anxiety and I noticed it more so when i'm with, like a supervisor, something like that, they might repeat some of the things prior to actually engaging with their supervisor, something like that.

Lindsey: Yeah! So, we're not inherently bad, just sometimes come into issues when it's like a lot of avoidance or stammering and things like that. So we really work through and pull apart like which ones are helpful and which ones are not.

Lindsey: Yeah! That makes a lot of sense. All right, so what does treatment look like for social anxiety?

Lindsey: So a couple different ones. So a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, we call it exposure response prevention and we use this a lot for social anxiety, so what that is is basically like experiential learning. That, I can be in this situation and sometimes my feared outcome doesn't happen. I don't get criticized, people don't judge me, but we approach anyways. So the problem with the anxiety cycle is we tend to avoid and then we never learn that like that situation wasn't dangerous. So the more that we avoid, our mind actually kind of labels that as this is a fearful situation to avoid that situation and then it creates the cycle. So exposure response prevention is basically just identifying the fear and then working to approach the feared situation and reducing our response, which might be avoiding. So I always say, if we're avoiding, we're working on approaching and kind of leaning into it slowly. Other cognitive behavioral therapy techniques is like challenging the fear thoughts. So if I fear that nobody likes me, in what ways does no one like you? So we might challenge that. Like, well, I do have some friends or you know people generally like me, things like that. So we just work to challenge those negative, unhelpful beliefs and identify those and then, depending on if it's more like general anxiety, we might do like some relaxation in mindfulness training to really work to decrease that distress within the situation.

Laurie: It sounds good, so it sounds like the first part is really putting yourself into some situations that might cause the social anxiety so kind of leaning in. And then you're there to help process that and what makes sense and kind of being within their limits of some anxiety, but not too much. And then it sounds like mindfulness techniques also help and then challenging some of the thoughts. So are those beliefs actually true? Do people actually not like me and, like you said, I have some friends, so there's some people out there that do. And that can make a huge difference in just feeling confident a situation.

Lindsey: Yeah! Yep, for sure.

Laurie: All right, myths about social anxiety.

Lindsey: Yeah, let's bust some of these! So sometimes people believe that social anxiety is just being nervous around being keyed up, things like that, but it's a lot more. The symptoms of social anxiety can vary from situation to situation, but it can be like irritability and it can be, you know, like we said, avoidance. It can be shaking, freezing, like people can't sometimes just go in that fight or flight response when they're in social situations. So it's a lot more. I think that kind of minimizes, like the whole spectrum of everything that can occur. Second one is that social anxiety is a problem that you can live with. That you can just go about your day, things like that, but it can be really really intense for some people, so debilitating to the sense of they avoid work, relationships, approaching others, kids that go like completely mute in schools and then, you know, have troubles speaking and communicating with others and getting their needs met. So it can be as extreme as... I don't ask someone where the bathroom is, so then I just hold it, and so it could be really really extreme in cases. So really, you know, not minimizing any of those symptoms that might be occurring and getting the help that you need because there is help out there. So I want to remind people like you don't have to live like that if it's not the way that you want to live. Yeah, and then the other one is: social anxiety is the same as shyness, and so people who are shy always experience kind of a little bit of social anxiety. But those who have social anxiety don't always appear shy. So someone might actually appear confident or, you know, like, come off as they know what they're talking about. Things like that, but they could still experience social anxiety inside. So it's really hard to tell. Sometimes people you know just assume that it just means that you're shy right, and so then the more confident you get that will go away, but not always. So sometimes we can go about our life but still have that struggle. And then the last one, the fourth one is that social anxiety isn't common and it actually is. So the World Health Organization says around four to 12% of people in the US have social anxiety. So it's a pretty good amount of people that might struggle with different situations in their work or school.

Laurie: And thanks for sharing that number, that information too, because I know a lot of people feel very alone with social anxiety, and think.. I'm the only one experiencing this, is something really wrong with me, and the reality is just like you said, it's a cycle and that avoidance cycle makes it worse and bigger and bigger and bigger.

Lindsey: Mhmm. Yeah, it's pretty bad.

Laurie: All right, so last one: what are the common types of social anxiety?

Lindsey: Yeah, so primarily the most common is public speaking. We all can think that right, you got to get up in front of a crowd, you have to give a speech or presentation at work. Maybe a kid has to give some type of activity or assignment at school, so that public speaking- your nerves. That's really really common. About 21% of people struggle with that. Also speaking up in class or meetings, even just like raising your hand or sharing your opinions, or you know, in a group of people, and you interrupt, things like that, meeting new people. About 16% struggle with that. So you know you're going to a new event, in a crowd, or a new class, new work, something like that, and then 14% is talking to someone in authority. So we have to talk to a boss, a teacher, you know, maybe a neighbor or someone that has some type of authority over you. 13% struggle with things like going to parties or large gatherings, groups of people, concerts. I think since the pandemic we've been seeing a lot of that, a lot of social anxiety and avoidance and just overwhelming, like paralyzing fear, going into situations just because of the unknown, the uncertainties of what can happen. 12% is expressing disagreement or differing opinions. So I think of that in like a meeting or something, speaking up and saying I don't feel that way or I think there's a different way to do that, going kind of against that grain of the norm, of what everyone else wants, and underlying that can be really hard, and then three more would be entering into an occupied room or showing up somewhere late. About 11% struggle with that. So I think of you know, like there's a meeting at a certain time and you show up, you know a couple of minutes late, but then everyone's staring at you.

Laurie: I've been there! I've been there Lindsey, that is hard.

Lindsey: Yeah! And then working while being watched, 11%. I think, for kids, too, you know teachers coming around, or you're typing and then someone's watching you. Things like that, just feeling kind of like the eyes are on you. And then 8%, still pretty common though, eating, drinking or writing, while being watched. So eating, I work with a lot of kids and adolescents who struggle sitting in front of others in the cafeteria and eating. There's just a lot of social pressure. I think that can come from that in fear of, you know judgment of what other people might be thinking of you.

Laurie: Oh man, that makes a lot of sense for that one, just even with kids with the messiness of it, and I would imagine that some things develop during that time. Maybe somebody making fun of someone because they got chocolate on their face. You know something like that and that could maybe spiral a bit. And then feeling that more and more.

Lindsey: Yeah, yeah, absolutely!

Laurie: Well, thanks for sharing all this, Lindsey.

Lindsey: Yeah, yeah, definitely, if anyone you know wants to come and see me, I'm definitely an expert in social anxiety and I love working with people, going out in the community and doing things too, like really just overcoming those fears and gaining confidence, like you said.

Laurie: That's great. So if anybody wants to reach out to Lindsey, you can check us out at www.shoresidetherapies.com and we'll put her information right under the comments in Facebook and we'll see you soon.

Lindsey: Awesome thanks, Laurie.

Laurie: Alright, thanks! Bye.

 

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