If you’re someone who suffers from social anxiety, you already know that some habits make social anxiety worse. While habits certainly don’t cause social anxiety, sometimes they don’t help matters. If you suffer from social anxiety, you’re probably already way too familiar with the symptoms, but as a refresher for everybody else, physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, and dizziness. The most common emotional symptom of social anxiety disorder is an intense fear of criticism and negative evaluation in social or performance situations.
Researchers are still working to determine what causes social anxiety disorder, though most psychologists agree it’s a combination of genetics and personal history. If you suffer from social anxiety, there are many things you can do to manage your illness, though the most often treatments involve a mixture of therapy, medication, and specific coping mechanisms for the situations and triggers that affect you personally. If you’re doing all the right things, that’s an awesome (and important) start.
But let’s be real, nobody is perfect, so it’s possible some of your seemingly innocent habits are contributing to your social anxiety disorder. Below is a list of five of the most common habits that can contribute to the battles you face with your social anxiety disorder.
1. Spending A Lot Of Time On Social Media
If you have social anxiety, spending a lot of time on social media can be incredibly harmful. Studies show that people who spend too much time on social media are three times more likely to suffer from depression, which is a scary statistic in general — but if you already have social anxiety, it’s definitely not a good risk to take. Social media shows people a projection of their friends’ ideal lives, but if you struggle with perfectionism, this can end up being really triggering for feelings of worthlessness and failure.
Spending too much time on social media may also lead you to build up expectations of how interactions with your friends should go when you do see them, or how a certain experience should play out, which can create an unnecessary amount of pressure.
2. Smoking Cigarettes To Calm Down
I know a lot of people smoke to relieve their anxiety, but studies show that smoking cigarettes is actually linked with an increase of anxiety for people who have anxiety disorders. This is probably caused by the effects nicotine has on your body when you smoke, as well as the way smoking effects your breathing patterns. For a lot of people, it can be tempting to remove yourself from a stressful situation to have a cigarette, but it may be more effective to remove yourself and simply get some fresh air or take a quick walk instead of lighting up.
3. Staying Up Too Late
Not getting enough sleep can be bad news for a lot of us, but things can be especially hard if you have social anxiety disorder and you’re lacking quality shut-eye. Studies show that when we lack sleep, we’re more likely to worry. That’s right: A lack of sleep can signal something in our brain to worry even more than we already do, and if you have social anxiety, that is not something you want to deal with.
Not getting enough sleep can wreck havoc on your mood anyway, and if you’re feeling irritable, it can negatively affect the way you interact with your partner, friends, and coworkers. And hey, that happens once in a while to everyone, but if you have social anxiety, you know that these little interactions may feel like mountains, and it might be best to nip that potential stress in the bud by basically making sure you get enough sleep.
4. Not Moving Enough
While exercise is healthy and important for many reasons, its positive link to curbing social anxiety often doesn’t get enough credit. While you shouldn’t replace medication and therapy with exercise without talking to your doctor, there are some serious studies that show exercise can alleviate symptoms of anxiety just as effectively as some traditional medications. If you have social anxiety, it can be difficult to get out there and try new things, or go to an environment where there’s a lot of new people (i.e., the gym) but for the purpose of helping your anxiety, the exercise can be as simple as taking a quick walk around your neighborhood or jogging to the store instead of taking the bus. The key is to get your heart rate up and your body moving.
5. Drinking Alcohol To Cope
Similar to smoking cigarettes, it’s tempting to drink alcohol as a way of dealing with social anxiety. However, studies show that this is actually a really bad move, and that alcohol can increase levels of anxiety. Yup: Alcohol can effect the serotonin levels in your brain, making you feel more anxious than you did to begin with, as well as more depressed. If you struggle with social anxiety and use alcohol to cope, though, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, research shows that 20 percent of people who struggle with anxiety use alcohol as a coping mechanism.
While there’s solidarity in numbers, this doesn’t make it any healthier for you; I’m not here to tell you to quit drinking entirely (that’s something you should definitely talk about with your doctor), but I do think it’s worth keeping track of how much you drink in social situations, and if you’re doing so because you really want to enjoy your favorite beer, or if you’re doing it to ease your social anxiety.
So, there you have it! If you suffer from social anxiety, you know just how real the disorder is. While social anxiety can feel debilitating, please remember that your mental health is worth care and patience, and you can always reach out to a trusted loved one or medical professional for guidance and support.