The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time, but for those suffering from social anxiety it can be quite stressful.
This is especially true when it comes to New Year’s Eve where there are triggers galore. From parties to socializing to friends to drinking or dressing up, each of these can cause someone with social anxiety to revert back in to their shell and run away.
What is social anxiety disorder?
It is estimated that 15 million Americans suffer from social anxiety. Those with this disorder see themselves through a distorted lens of self-doubt, shame and a fear that others are scrutinizing and judging them. They worry about flaws in their physical appearance, their social skills and behavior, their personalities and their ability to conceal the anxiety. To cope with social anxiety, many people develop safety behaviors to try to keep their “flaws” hidden. They may avoid eye contact with others or separate themselves completely from a larger group to go sit in a room alone.
How is social anxiety disorder treated?
Instead of using tactics, like fleeing, which may work in the short run, people who suffer from social anxiety need to learn tolerance. The best tool to help address social anxiety is cognitive behavior therapy. By creating a safe environment, a therapist can help a patient see that the worst-case scenario is not as bad as they think it is. Doing this changes the way a person thinks about the situation and eventually how they respond to it.
If symptoms are severe enough, medication such as Ketamine, may need to be prescribed in conjunction with counseling for continued practice of skills.
Social anxiety on New Year’s Eve
While social anxiety may prevent people from being 100% comfortable in social situations, there are several ways to make it through New Year’s Eve and enjoy it.
Prepare – Pick one event that you want to attend ahead of time. This will give you time and the opportunity to practice ways to get comfortable with attending. Visualize how you might feel at the party and come up with a few talking points to ease possible conversations.
Take a Friend – Bring someone close to you that understands your anxiety and can be there to help if you need it. Come up with a code word that you can drop in to conversation as a signal that you are not feeling well. They may be able to help in that situation or know that it is time for an escape.
Lend a hand – Arrive at the even early to help with the preparation. By lending a hand, you can build a certain comfort level prior to the rest of the people arriving. You now have become a host and this can help boost your self-esteem.
And, of course, if your anxiety is so severe that you can’t bring yourself to leave the house, you may want to speak with your primary healthcare provider or a behavioral health specialist about your anxiety treatment options. Medications, psychotherapy, and even ketamine infusions could help reduce your anxiety and get you back to living a fulfilling and rich life.