Bracing for Post-Pandemic Social Anxiety
Social anxiety has become an increasing problem after the pandemic. There are many ways to cope and manage social anxiety so you can live a normal lifestyle.
What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
After the pandemic, those who struggle with social anxiety may have trouble reintegrating themselves back into everyday life. The conditions of the pandemic may also cause anxiety in those who are fearful about how the pandemic has now changed things. This article will tell you everything you need to know about post-pandemic social anxiety and the best way to cope with anxiety symptoms.
People who struggle with anxiety disorders frequently have intense bouts of worry and fear in everyday situations. Anxiety disorders often involve repeated episodes of sudden anxiety, fear, or terror that usually peak within a few minutes. These intense episodes of anxiety are often referred to as panic attacks.1
How Common Is It?
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder. Anxiety disorders affect about 30% of adults at some point in their lives. Anxiety can negatively affect someone’s life in many ways, but with the proper treatment and support it can be overcome.2
Not all anxiety disorders are the same. Different types of anxiety disorders will affect people in various ways and many types require different styles of treatment. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are five main types of anxiety disorders. These main types of anxiety disorders are:3
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, worry, or fear even when there is nothing to provoke it.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors such as obsessive hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning. These rituals often provide temporary relief for someone with OCD and not performing them results in increased anxiety.
- Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that results in unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear or worry. These episodes often include chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dizziness, and stomach pain.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD usually occurs after an event where physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events include military combat, accidents, natural or human-caused disasters, or violent personal assaults.
- Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder): Social phobia or social anxiety disorder is characterized by anxiety and self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia may only occur in one type of social situation, or it may be more severe where it occurs in any situation that involves other people or social interaction.
The Impact of Anxiety on Behavioral Issues
Borderline Personality Disorder and Anxiety
Borderline personality disorder is a continuous pattern of varying behavior, moods, and self-image. These problems often result in impulsive actions that create problems in relationships. Those with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anxiety, depression, or anger.
While anxiety is a common symptom associated with borderline personality disorder, it is not known as specifically an anxiety disorder. Anxiety or panic disorders generally cause symptoms of intense worry or fear more frequently and for a longer period of time.4
Sociopathic Behavior and Anxiety
Sociopathic behavior is also referred to as anti-social personality disorder. Common signs of a sociopath are anti-social behavior, impulsive behavior, irritability, a disregard for safety, and a lack of remorse. People with sociopathic traits can live normal lives. However, it often causes them to have trouble with relationships, emotions, and making decisions.
Sociopathic behavior can be related to anxiety or past trauma. Those who exhibit anti-social behavior may do so as a way of coping or trying to protect themselves. They may often experience bouts of anxiety in certain situations that cause the sociopathic traits.5
Introvert vs. Anxiety
While the terms introvert and anxiety may seem to go hand in hand, they are two separate factors. The term introvert is more about social energy. An introvert tends to feel more energized when they are alone. Social situations with a lot of people can be very draining for an introvert. Due to social situations being challenging for introverts, many do have some level of social anxiety that affects them.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)?
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by having anxiety or being self-conscious in social situations. The symptoms and intensity of SAD may differ depending on the individual and the type of social situation.
The Role Trauma Plays in SAD
Trauma can play a significant role in SAD. Anxiety may be experienced in certain social situations due to past trauma. When someone has experienced a traumatic event, they may get triggered by certain situations that resemble what they experienced in the past causing anxiety to occur.
Symptoms of Panic in Social Anxiety
When someone has social anxiety, they may experience symptoms of panic in social situations. These moments of panic may be referred to as panic attacks. Common symptoms of panic may include:
- Trouble breathing: When someone experiences anxiety, they will often start taking short shallow breaths. They may feel like they are having trouble breathing which can intensify the symptoms of anxiety.
- Racing heart: When anxiety is experienced, adrenaline is increased, and your fight or flight instincts begin to kick in. This feeling often results in an increased heart rate that can feel very uncomfortable or overwhelming.
- Feeling shaky: Many will experience shaky hands when they have anxiety. In more intense situations the full body and movements may feel very shaky and unsettled. When someone is experiencing anxiety, they may also sound like they have a shakiness in their voice when they speak.
How to Prepare for Socializing Post-Pandemic?
If you are concerned about socializing post-pandemic, there are some things you can do to help make the process easier.
When you are taking steps to get back to normal activities, it is ok to ease back in and not try to do it all at once. Going slow will help you slowly reacquaint yourself with these everyday situations, so it is not so much of a shock. Give yourself a time limit, a certain number of days, or certain situations you’re comfortable with starting. Over time, you can increase this as you begin to feel more comfortable.
When you are getting back to socializing, be aware that you may feel some anxiety at times. Be mindful of when you are feeling symptoms of anxiety and practice coping mechanisms that will help you deal with these situations. Taking a step back and some deep breaths, as well as thinking positive thoughts, can help you in these moments to ease anxiety symptoms.
Co-Occurring Anxiety Disorder and Substance Abuse
Anxiety and substance abuse can often go hand in hand. Those who experience anxiety may use drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their symptoms. Substance abuse can also lead to someone feeling anxious due to side effects of the drugs or circumstances addiction causes in their lives.
Factors That Contribute to Both Disorders
When someone struggles with co-occurring anxiety and substance abuse some common factors can contribute to both. Common factors may include:
- Genetics: Studies have shown that anxiety and substance abuse can both occur in part due to genetic factors. Knowing this can help to treat both disorders more effectively.
- Brain neurotransmitters: When someone uses drugs or alcohol, it can activate neurotransmitters in the brain that causes anxiety to occur. When someone experiences anxiety, it can also activate neurotransmitters in the brain that contribute to behaviors associated with addiction, meaning both disorders affect the brain in ways that contribute to one another.
- Stress: Stress is common in both those who struggle with anxiety and substance abuse. Managing stress can reduce symptoms of both disorders.
- Environment: Your environment and the people you surround yourself with can contribute to both disorders occurring. Your environment can create anxiety or stress in your life or put you in situations where you feel pressure to use addictive substances.
Self-Medicating SAD with Substances
When someone struggles with social anxiety disorder, they may use substances as a way to cope and make themselves feel more comfortable in social situations. However, using substances to self-medicate only masks the actual symptoms and can lead to many negative life consequences.
Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety is treatable. Through the right support and treatment, you can learn healthy ways to cope with it and live a normal life.
Therapy is often a big part of treating social anxiety disorder. Therapy will help you discover what is causing anxiety to occur and learn positive ways to cope with it.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often very effective for treating anxiety. CBT will help you analyze your thinking patterns and learn how it’s affecting your behavior. CBT will help you reroute these thoughts into more positive ones that help you cope with symptoms of anxiety.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy that is used to treat past trauma. EMDR psychotherapy uses eye movements to analyze how someone reacts to a stimulus associated with past trauma. This form of psychotherapy can help you work through past trauma and begin to create more positive thinking patterns that can help manage symptoms of anxiety.6
- alprazolam (Xanax)
- chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- diazepam (Valium)
- lorazepam (Ativan)
- escitalopram (Lexapro)
- fluoxetine (Prozac)
- paroxetine (Paxil)
- sertraline (Zoloft)