Dr Eva Fisher M.A., D.Ed. C Psych
When you spend most of your waking hours and your twilight pre-sleep hours in front of a small lit screen, how will feel when making eye contact with a real life person? What if it’s a person you recently met and who you want to get to know better?
This scenario is a perfect storm for an anxiety attack, above and the usual panic, that you are now being judged and rejected as a nerd of the highest order who can hardly put two words together without stammering and getting red in the face?
The chances are good that you feel awkward, weird, tightness in your chest, have some shallow breathing and find it hard to speak naturally?
You may start to wonder if others notice that you’re tense, and wonder if they are judging you, rejecting you and deciding that you’re a loser?
You have just experienced an anxiety attack IRL, that may be made a lot worse because of your habitual smartphone isolation.
The DSM-5 describes the signs of such attacks as social phobia, a persistent or strong fear of one or more social or performance situations where you are exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny. You may fear that you will act in a way (or show signs of anxiety) that will be humiliating or embarrassing. You may be aware that the intensity of your fear is exaggerated or excessive.
Ruling out the cause of your distress as due to a chemical substance, or a medical condition like stuttering, trembling, or palsy, you have a real time case of social anxiety.
Is there an antidote?
The good news is yes, and the bad news is – it may not be fast and will require some work.
Overcoming social anxiety can be managed with some help. You need to face reality. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you feel more comfortable (safe, secure, at ease) when you are alone with your smartphone and inter-relate with your friends with text messages only?
- Do you feel, or have others told you, that you spend too much time playing with your smartphone?
- Whose mind is having the thoughts that other people are observing you and judging you a social cripple? Is it yours alone?
- Do you think you can train or trick your mind into calming down?
- Are there some mental tricks you ever use to feel relaxed in social settings?
If any of these questions (or answers) are causing issues in your life, contact us for a consultation.
And tune in next week for the next installment of Social Anxiety IRL.