Dear Therapist: I can't socialise with people

Making sense of the world we inhabit

By Prateeksha Shetty

Published: Thu 6 Jan 2022, 7:40 PM

I think I have social anxiety. I look forward to meeting people but when I’m in social situations, I find myself shutting down and feeling overwhelmed... perhaps even anxious. — Rita S.

Dear Rita, social anxiety typically stems from fear of negative evaluation. Essentially, the fear is that one might be judged for being boring, not smart, unattractive or that they might embarrass themselves. Sometimes, it is accompanied by avoidance of feared situations or in severe cases, anticipatory anxiety. In your case, you will need to understand what’s behind your anxiety. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by social cues, the kind of people you are with or the authority/relationship that they represent. People who are sensitive to sensory stimuli may also feel overwhelmed; for example, loud voices at a restaurant or sheer number of people in an event may trigger anxiety. I recommend that you keep a journal record of anxiety which will help you identify patterns. I also advise you to seek psychotherapy if you have experienced anxiety for many years and if it has become a barrier in social functioning.

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