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Strategies for Managing Workplace Social Anxiety


As per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 15 million Americans, which accounts for about 6.8% of the population, contend with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). SAD, also known as social phobia, entails an intense apprehension of social situations. Those affected by it fear potential humiliation and embarrassment in front of others, often fixating on minor mistakes they’ve made or could possibly make while assuming that they are being scrutinized by everyone around them.

One of the most common triggers for social phobia is public speaking. 

Interestingly, it’s worth noting that public speaking is the primary fear for people worldwide, surpassing even the fear of death, which ranks second. Yes, more individuals are apprehensive about standing before an audience and speaking than they are about the prospect of mortality!

Shyness vs. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Shyness is a condition that is often mistaken for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), but they are distinct experiences. While a shy individual might feel some discomfort in social situations, it typically doesn’t reach the level of intense anxiety seen in someone with SAD. Shy people tend not to go to the extreme lengths of avoiding social gatherings, which is a common behavior in individuals with SAD.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder:

  1. Intense and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations where the person faces scrutiny or unfamiliar people.
  2. Occurrence of panic attacks at the mere thought of these social situations.
  3. The individual recognizes the fear as excessive or irrational but still struggles to control their emotions.
  4. Avoidance of the social situation at all costs.
  5. Irrational fears significantly impact a person’s daily life and hinder personal and career growth.

Coping with Social Anxiety Disorder at Work:

If your social anxiety is impeding your career advancement, here are four strategies to help manage it:

  1. Meditation: Scientifically proven to calm nerves, meditation involves setting aside just 10 minutes a day to focus on your breath, helping you settle in the face of anxiety and stress.

  2. Focus on Performance, Not Feelings: Rather than fixating on how you feel during a social situation, concentrate on positive actions and outcomes. For instance, during a board meeting, emphasize making good eye contact with everyone in the room rather than worrying about blushing or sweating.

  3. Be Realistic: Challenge unrealistic thoughts by reminding yourself of past successes. If you’ve excelled in public speaking before, it’s unrealistic to tell yourself you’re going to fail. Instead, focus on your preparation and track record of success.

  4. Seek Professional Help: If social anxiety is hindering your career and financial progress, consider consulting a psychiatrist who specializes in anxiety disorders. They can provide coping strategies to help you move forward in life.

If you or someone you know is dealing with SAD and wishes to explore treatment options, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m here to discuss how I can assist in making life more comfortable.

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