Actions You Can Take to Combat Social Anxiety

For everything that affects your life, there is going to be something that you can do about it. When you begin to realize that you have social anxiety, you start to look and consider what options are available to you. This can mean checking out treatment options and providers, support groups, and resources that are available for social anxiety. You may consider being tested to in order to be formally diagnosed and to figure out how intense your social anxiety is. Maybe you're not entirely sure that it is social anxiety, but maybe something else like sensitivity.

There are options available for those with social anxiety, and being able to look at what those options are often makes a major difference in whether or not people actually act on them. Remember, most people with social anxiety do not immediately seek treatment and may even wait several years before doing so. This article will cover some of the options that are available to those with social anxiety when they first begin to seek help. Included are testing for social anxiety, sensitivity, and other mental health conditions, and the treatment options that are available.

Testing For Social Anxiety

Testing for social anxiety is largely question-based. It involves looking at symptoms and determining if they are being caused by social anxiety or by some other mental health issue. There are usually two options available for social anxiety testing: either a self-assessment or professional consultation.

  • Self-Assessments--Most social anxiety and mental health help groups offer questionnaires for those who want to do a self-assessment. Conducting a search for "social anxiety test" on the internet brings up results for dozens upon dozens of self-assessments. Some come from major research and support organizations, while others come from community websites or ones that are dedicated to quizzes in general. The accuracy of each assessment will vary, usually depending on the questions included in the assessment and who designed its set-up.

A self-assessment can range from a simple quiz to an in-depth personal exam. The questions included are usually based on your experiences and what is already known about social anxiety.  They will focus on your symptoms and are dependent on the honesty of your responses. Remember, it's a self-assessment, which means that there isn't someone analyzing the information you're sharing to create a working diagnosis. If anything, the diagnosis will be based on the interpretations of yourself or a computer. As a result, a self-assessment carries a lot of room for error and should not be taken as an official diagnosis.

  • Professional Assessments--From a medical standpoint, there are no specific tests available to diagnose social anxiety disorder.  However that does not mean that a professional is unable to diagnose social anxiety. As with self-assessments, the diagnosis will be based primarily on your symptoms. Diagnosis can be made by a psychologist or a medical doctor. During your appointment for diagnosis, it is important to be as honest and clear as possible. Unless the professional you are speaking with is able to witness your symptoms fist hand--which isn't possible for all of social anxiety's symptoms--they will not have access to all of the relevant information needed for an accurate diagnosis. Misinformation from you can affect the diagnosis and even prevent you from getting the right treatment later on.

Often for the sake of confirming the diagnosis, some professional assessments may include observations. This is to make sure that the symptoms are manifesting as you described and for the person diagnosing you to gauge the extent of your social anxiety. A physical exam may be recommended to check for any physical causes that may be responsible for your symptoms rather than social anxiety.  There may also be symptoms that you are unaware of, which can impact your diagnosis. You may have symptoms that do not match social anxiety entirely, which may mean that it's something similar or that there is another condition present that is affecting your social anxiety.

  • Why Be Tested?--One of the biggest reasons why testing for social anxiety is an option is because people want to find out exactly what is going on inside their minds when it's causing problems. Testing will confirm suspicions and give the person with social anxiety the information necessary to move forward. The options are largely non-invasive and do not put a person's health at risk; they are fairly safe to do with very few problems that can potentially arise.

Testing provides the person with social anxiety and their treatment provider--if they decide to seek treatment--with valuable information. Interpretation of a person's symptoms and observations of those symptoms in play can allow a professional to gauge the extent of the person's social anxiety. They can use that information to determine what the next step can be, especially in regards to what treatment options will be beneficial.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Social Anxiety course?

Having yourself tested for social anxiety also provides you with another level of understanding. Until they receive an accurate diagnosis, many people with social anxiety feel frustrated and confused. They're unsure of what is going on with themselves and don't know what they can do about it. With testing, you get answers. It might not be all of the answers that you were looking for--or even the ones that you want--but it is more than what you would've had you not sought help and testing.

Testing For Sensitivity and Other Related Conditions

Social anxiety is not the only condition that generates those particular symptoms. It also may not be the only condition that a person has. Sensitivity and other related conditions are similar enough to social anxiety that they may result in a misdiagnosis. They also can occur at the same time as social anxiety and interfere with how it is diagnosed and treated.

Just as there are testing options available for social anxiety, tests for sensitivity also exist. Some of the tests done for social anxiety can be used for sensitivity, as they take into account the differences between the two in the tests' outcome. Tests for sensitivity can also be done through self-assessments and through professional assistance.

  • Self-Assessments--Self-assessments are popular testing methods for determining if a person has sensitivity or is a highly sensitive person (HSP). They are not as abundant as the self-assessments for social anxiety are, but they are available through many of the same channels. Websites and organizations that are dedicated to providing information and resources on sensitivity and HSPs are sure to have testing options.

The self-assessments for sensitivity are fairly simple and act more as checklists than questionnaires. One of the more popular and recommended sensitivity tests, through the website The Highly Sensitive Person, follows that format and has since the test's creation in 1996.  The test determines the probability of a person having sensitivity or being an HSP by the number of questions or statements they agree with. The one from The Highly Sensitive Person website, for example, states that agreeing with around fourteen--about half of what's available on the list--would qualify a person as highly sensitive.

  • Professional Assessments--Most professional assessments for sensitivity are going to involve a psychological and behavioral assessment. This can include observations and questions, just as with social anxiety. Being diagnosed as an HSP may occur during testing for social anxiety. Keep in mind that the two are similar and are often connected in some manner, so it is a possible outcome of testing to be diagnosed with something you weren't being tested for.

  • Why Be Tested?--Being tested for sensitivity can be another way of determining if you actually have social anxiety. It is possible to have sensitivity on top of social anxiety, so getting a clear diagnosis for both can be to your benefit if you suspect that that is the case.  In the event that you have social anxiety and are an HSP, testing can determine the extent of your sensitivity and how much of an impact it can potentially have on your social anxiety.

Causes of a person's sensitivity can be just as varied as the causes of their social anxiety. In a chicken-or-egg type of situation, one may have caused the other. The outcome of testing, or information gathered during testing, can determine what caused or influenced what. It can also help determine what the impact will be on treatment options from this point on.

Seeking Treatment

Treatment for anxiety disorders can be a tricky business. Some people do not want to load themselves up with medication to make themselves feel better, and some may not be comfortable seeking help from a therapist. With social anxiety, many people wait to seek treatment and believe that it won't help them as efficiently as they want it to. By the time they decide to seek treatment, they have spent many years trying to manage their social anxiety by themselves and have become incredibly frustrated. In some cases, they are seeking treatment from a professional source because their own efforts have proven fruitless.

Treatment for social anxiety can be found through any mental health care provider or organization. Not all treatments will work on their own and multiple methods will usually be employed to give the person their best shot at overcoming their social anxiety.  

  • Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT)--Usually considered to be the standard therapy treatment for social anxiety; CBT works by helping the person retrain their mind to not be fearful of socializations.  Basically, you are using therapy to relearn how to socialize without having your social anxiety present itself. Blocking its symptoms and shutting it down quickly will often become a habit that allows you to overcome it. CBT is often the go-to option employed by professionals in the treatment of social anxiety and it has proven to be one of the most effective treatment options available.

CBT is often seen as the mother-of-all treatment options. It pulls all of the techniques that are used for treating social anxiety and combines them into a usable cohesive treatment. It can be modified to the needs of the patient and is adjustable in the event that one component isn't working as well as the others. This aspect of CBT is vital to its success, as some components may be proven to be doing more harm than good at times. 

  • Medication--Depending on the cause(s) of a person's social anxiety and if there are any other conditions at play, medication may be a treatment option. Anti-anxiety drugs, like Prozac or Xanax, are often prescribed for severe cases of anxiety. Such cases are often to the point where they impede the person's ability to function and live safely.

Many people shy away from medication as a treatment option because of personal believes, fears, and misconceptions they may have about medication and mental health. There are many complications present with medicated treatment but it is an option that should be taken into consideration.  Before starting a medication regiment for social anxiety, it is best to discuss your fears and concerns related to medicating mental illness with your treatment provider. Ask questions about the medication, the options available, side effects, and any other concerns you may have before moving forward.

  • Support Groups--Joining a support group is not really the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about social anxiety treatment options. Anything that may involve socialization or situations that can trigger social anxiety are often limited during treatment sessions, but support groups are often recommended as supplementary treatment or an extension of therapy. A support group allows you to share your experiences and get feedback from people who have been in your situation. A therapist or other medical professional will have the training to do that, but they will not be able to relate to you on the same level as a support group.  

  •  Coping Strategies--Coping strategies are supplementary treatment options that a person can employ anywhere to combat their social anxiety. They can come in the form of tools and actions that a person can use to calm themselves down in the event of an anxiety response. Not all coping strategies will be 100% efficient at calming a person's social anxiety, nor is there a finite number of strategies available.