How to beat social anxiety
To mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October, USW is raising awareness of how social anxiety (which includes performance anxiety) is one of the most common mental health problems and often goes unidentified.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety (SA) is a fear of negative evaluation in one or more social or performance situations, such as meeting new people, speaking up or performing in front of others or walking into a room where others are already seated.
While many people can have a degree of shyness or fear in particular social settings for some the fear is disabling and it impacts significantly on their day to day functioning. It can result in isolation and depression if not addressed.
Some preliminary research done at the University of South Wales suggests many students, particularly first year undergraduates, may be struggling with levels of social anxiety that significantly affect their ability to engage with learning activities and to enjoy university life.
The research carried out by Sheila Brennan, who lectures in CBT and is a psychologist in clinical practice, looked at both the extent of the problem but also at ways the University could develop support for students when such difficulties occur.
Sheila points out that there are very effective ways of tackling social and performance anxiety at all levels of severity and the challenge is to help individuals to understand that it is a problem that can be addressed and to make help more easily available.
How to beat social anxiety
If you think you may be suffering from social anxiety, the good news is that it is something you can turn around with some simple steps, such as using online self-help materials, which can be a useful way of finding out more and starting to address your anxiety.
- Reduce your anxiety by gaining control of your breathing.
- Understand why you might feel anxious and your body's response to it.
- This video by Learn to Live, provides tips and tricks to help students deal with and overcome their social anxiety.
- Emmie blogs about her experiences of managing relationships and anxiety whilst at university.
- Mind, the mental health charity, has great tips for everyday living and student life
- The Centre for Clinical Interventions website provides useful modules for exploring your own experiences, and can particularly helpful in shifting the problem rather than simply managing it.
There are also some useful self-help books available from the University library:
- Butler, G. (2007). Managing social anxiety: a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach. Client workbook. London: Robinson.
- Butler, G. (2009). Overcoming social anxiety and shyness: self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques. London: Robinson.
- Hope, D.A. (2000). Managing social anxiety: a cognitive behavioural approach. Client workbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- For further information and advice on social anxiety, you can also visit the NHS Choices website.
Here to help
Speaking to someone about your difficulties and getting face-to-face support can be particularly beneficial in tackling your problems.
The University’s Wellbeing Service is there to help any students experiencing mental or emotional distress. They offer a range of practical support in a confidential, professional setting, with drop-in sessions available during term time or through an online booking service which can be found on UniLife – one for Counselling and one for Mental Wellbeing.
If social or performance anxiety impacts on your academic work it is helpful to discuss this with your personal tutor or other members of your academic team.