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Social Anxiety or Post-COVID Normality?

Do you dread social situations? Is this an anxiety disorder or post-COVID normality?

Social anxiety is a phobia of sorts – a fear of one or more social situations. But then, just when we think we know social anxiety, along comes a global pandemic!

Most sufferers develop social anxiety as a teenager, but some people develop the condition later and the COVID pandemic is almost sure to add to this group.

Usually, anxiety happens because we experience something

threatening, something that we find difficult to control. So, what does this mean when staying at home and avoiding social situations becomes a compulsion rather than a reasoned choice?

People with social anxiety usually try to stay away from the situations that make them anxious. When they cannot avoid a situation, they tend to feel very anxious, embarrassed and afraid they will act in ways that will make other people think badly of them. They often fear that others will see some sign of anxiety, such as trembling or sweating. In addition, there is now the chance of picking up COVID-19 and all the implications of that.

Some common situations that may become more anxiety provoking in COVID times may be: going back to school, college, uni or the office, shopping, meeting new people, being at parties, dating, eating in public and using public toilets.

Once we are aware of difficulties likely to make us feel anxious, then we can take steps to deal with them. To get yourself off to a good start consider:

  • Eat and sleep well: Lack of sleep and poor diet is a vicious cycle that can trigger and exacerbate stress.

  • Exercise: Try to get outdoors and enjoy some natural light.

  • Self-care: Be kind to yourself, connect with friends, relax, meditate, have fun, and listen to what you need.

  • Medication and talking therapy: If you are finding it difficult to cope, visit your GP who might suggest medication or NHS services. Alternatively, consider meeting with a counsellor or psychotherapist who is trained to help.

Anxiety can be the main symptom for a variety of other conditions all of which may have accelerated due to the pandemic including:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder: Excessive worry.

  • Health Anxiety: The fear or belief of being ill.

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Repetitive and persistent thoughts, urges, images and/or repetitive behaviours.

  • Panic Disorder: The fear and physical experience of a range of sensations interpreted as signs of imminent catastrophe.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: Ongoing physical and psychological symptoms caused by one or more traumatic experiences.

Author: Tracy Foster is a BACP registered counsellor and psychotherapist who specialises in working with anxiety related conditions. Tracy offers a free assessment session to anyone age 13+ who might benefit from emotional support.

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