Public anxiety is a form of social anxiety which majority of people deal with on a regular basis. As humans, it is completely normal to feel insecure, anxious and uncomfortable in the presence of other people. Everyone experiences social anxiety in some way, but if it’s affecting you to the point that it disrupts your life, then it’s time to take a step back and seek professional help. Are you someone who avoids social events, meeting new people, and are in constant fear of being judged by others and feel extremely self-conscious? We spoke to Mental Health Counselor and Psychotherapist, Zainab Tufail Arbab and Instagram influencer Safaa Rauf Khan (@SafaaInTransit) for their insight on how to overcome public anxiety – scroll down for their advice:
What Is Public Anxiety?
If extreme, public anxiety can be termed as a social anxiety disorder. A person who’s dealing with a social anxiety disorder often neglects his social environment and avoids being in the centre of the attention in social situations – such as when meeting friends, going outside to do groceries, going for a job-interview, answering questions in class, dating, or having to ask a question to a stranger.
People with social anxiety are likely to worry about social activities before leaving their home. Social anxiety is likely to start from an early age in people who are introvert and shy. Hence, it is not uncommon. Getting the right treatment is very important as without treatment it could affect the person in question long-term and prevent them from reaching their full potential.
What Causes It And What Are The Symptoms?
According to psychotherapist Zainab Tufail Arbab, the causes of social anxiety can be many. ‘There can be multiple causes from childhood traumas to a recent experience. It can be related to a primary caregiver’s attitude or the environment’s reaction to an individual’s action, provoking anxiety’, says Zainab.
Instagram influencer and entrepreneur Safaa Rauf Khan shares her insight too: ‘I think the fear of judgement is the main reason why many people suffer from public anxiety. The fear of judgement is a cultural thing and transcends across the board for all ages and generations’, says Safaa.
Research says the most common symptoms of social anxiety are likely to be the following:
- Blushing, sweating, or a rapid hear-beat
- Feeling nauseous or sick to the stomach
- Making little eye contact and speaking in an extremely soft voice
- Finding it scary and difficult to be around other people, and have a hard time talking to them
- Being very self-conscious in front of other people and feeling embarrassed and awkward
- Being extremely afraid of judgement from others
- Staying away from places where other people are present
The Impact On The Indivdidual
According to Zainab, the impact varies from individual to individual, but it is likely to form a barrier. ‘Wherever they are on the spectrum, we have to remember it is a symptom and it can be treated in therapy’, says Zainab. According to Safaa, it can cripple one’s confidence and ability to succeed. Anxiety is to be taken seriously and needs to be dealt with. ‘I believe it is also likely to form a barrier in one’s life. Due to public anxiety you might not be able to ask all questions, give all answers and discuss opportunities’, says Safaa.
We spoke to Zainab and Safaa about the impact of social media on public anxiety as well. Instagram influencer Safaa shares her insight with us: ‘Again it is because of the fear of judgment. On social media everyone takes advantage of anonymity and judges everyone without pointing a finger at their own self. Also, because social media is a grand display of the highs of one’s life, it can make you feel bad about your own, causing you to doubt your own abilities’.
According to psychotherapist Zainab, social media isn’t likely to play a huge role as she cannot generalize and assume without meeting people who face the challenge. ‘I strongly feel everything has advantages and disadvantages, including social media. However, I do feel social media may have a negative impact on the minds of people, especially ones already struggling with social or public anxiety, because they might be comparing themselves to others which may cause stress, depression, low self-esteem, low self-worth etc’, says Zainab.
How To Manage It
According to Safaa, finding peace and confidence within oneself, can help deal with public anxiety in the longer run. Short term solutions include exercises like practicing social conversations, breathing exercises and expanding comfort zones. ‘I am a strong believer in firstly accepting yourself the way you are. Once you love who you are and are grateful for it, you won’t care so much about judgment. Humans naturally tend to overthink, so it’s best to fill your mind with positive thoughts intentionally’, says Safaa. She also advises the readers to not take judgment and social media too seriously. Understand that others might feel the same about your Instagram. ‘We all showcase our high points but it doesn’t mean we all don’t have low points. Also, try not to care about every passing comment or message’, says Safaa.
Psychotherapist Zainab says healing is very important and shares a few techniques with us which can be used to facilitate people with social anxiety:
- Breathing exercises for grounding
- Creating their own affirmations and practicing daily
- Setting short term goals that are doable and achievable
- Seeking professional help and going for therapy
According to Zainab, therapy treats and heals in beautiful ways. ‘For public anxiety due to social media, I think it’s important to get to know one’s addiction, if there is any, and then treating it accordingly. You may start working on the ‘self’ by cutting one’s time spent on social media, keeping a constant check on how certain sites make you feel and using social media positively,’ shares Zainab.