One of the most glaring and concerning patterns I’ve experienced with my clients since the emergence of the pandemic is a noticeable increase in social anxiety. This is due to the increased ease of social avoidance and a reinforced fear (that was already present) of socializing caused by the pandemic.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which mental health professionals use as a guide, social anxiety disorder is defined as the “marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or possible scrutiny by others.”
Before the pandemic, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that just over 19% of American adults will experience at least one anxiety disorder over any 12-month period. Typically, social anxiety disorder affects 15 million adults, or 6.8% of the U.S. population. Social anxiety is equally common among men and women and typically begins around age 13. People often experience symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help from a professional.
The former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has recently brought attention to the association between the absence of social connections during the pandemic and how this loneliness is linked to worsening physical and mental health, including anxiety and depression. That means it’s important to find ways to offset and heal social anxiety, even at a time where it might feel easy to just slip into avoiding social interaction completely.
Here are a few simple techniques to help you cope with any social anxiety woes you may be enduring during these surreal times:
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