How to Accept and Stop Controlling Your Social Anxiety

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If you suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD), you might be looking for a quick fix that will completely eliminate anxious feelings.

If your goal is never to feel anxious again, you will probably leave treatment, feeling as though things haven't been fixed. The truth is that most people feel a little anxious in some social and performance situations, and those with SAD will probably always experience some anxiety in those settings.

Finding Acceptance With Your Anxiety

One of the goals of treatment for social anxiety disorder is to understand that anxious feelings are not the end of the world. Treatments such as

teach that your ultimate goal should be to develop a more accepting attitude toward anxiety. Instead of trying to control and eliminate anxious feelings, you should learn how to tolerate them.

Imagine that you are giving a speech and feel as though you can't catch your breath. As you overreact to this initial anxious feeling:

  • Your mind starts to race
  • Negative thoughts spiral out of control
  • Your thoughts cause further anxious reactions, such as a rapidly beating heart
  • You soon become overwhelmed

Learning to accept feelings of anxiety helps prevent them from spiraling out of control.

Instead of thinking, "I need to stop this anxiety, I can't deal with it," focus instead on such thoughts as, "I know I feel a little bit anxious, but that happens sometimes and it will soon pass."

It is the fear of fear that starts the cycle of panic. When you let go of the fear, the anxiety gradually lessens.

You might still be worried that people will notice your anxiety symptoms even if they don't spiral into a full-blown panic attack. Although this is possible, they probably notice a lot less than you expect. In most cases even if they do notice, they will probably react with feelings of sympathy.

If you practice being more accepting of your anxious feelings, over time you will notice that they become less objectionable and that fighting against them seems like an effort.

Instead of trying to control your anxious feelings, you will learn to ride the wave of anxiety until it gradually diminishes. Although the process takes time and effort, it is worth the reduction that you will see in your symptoms of social anxiety.

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