When you’re stuck with social anxiety for as long as you remember, you start wondering if you’re cursed with this mental health issue forever. At times, you start to lose hope and eventually silent the voice that begged for a cure to rid this disorder that crippled your social capability. Can social anxiety be cured? Or are you doomed to hide in your personal shell forever?
If I were to honestly answer your question, I would say it’s a big YES. But it’s also a tough journey that could take years if you don’t know how to outsmart your brain or have the right motivation to do so. Let’s just say the beating social anxiety is not a walk in the park. In reality, it’s a battle of you against yourself, trying to undo whatever trauma or past programming that has caused the anxiety.
What it’s like to be able to talk to strangers without physically shaking or blushing? Or having to sit through hours of job interviews without going blank in your mind. Do you suddenly adopt a different personality or does the old fear still remains?
After having banished 15 years of social anxiety, here’s what it really feels like. I no longer feel fear in a crowded environment or in a group gathering. Yet, I didn’t change to be a social butterfly, mainly because I’m an introvert. I’m quiet, composed but does not hesitate to voice my thoughts when I feel necessary.
Does it mean that you don’t feel fear and get nervous when you’re asked to do a presentation or public speaking? Unless you’re a human devoid of emotion, you’ll still feel nervous except that the negative emotions are no longer as overwhelming as they used to be.
You’ll also be experiencing a new found confidence and a mind that automatically repel unfounded fears when you’re subjected to social situations you once dreaded. As for whether you’ll be happily going around socializing, that depends on whether you’re naturally an introvert or extrovert.
I once struggled with social anxiety for a long time. For at least 15 years, I was confused with what I was going through. I’ve never thought it was a sign of disorder but confusing the symptoms for being an introvert. I’ve only realized what it was after I’ve managed to overcome it about a couple of years ago.
So, how do you beat a mental disorder that you never knew you had? I had a dream of owning my own business, despite my lack of social skill and extreme fear of making phone calls. My burning passion of being an entrepreneur overshadowed my fear, and it made me quit my comfortable job at the age of 28, and start an unthinkable journey for someone with social anxiety.
For the first few years, I relentlessly tried to gain new clients by making calls and conducting presentations. I remembered my first cold call as an absolute disaster. I basically went into freeze mode, with a panic attack cutting short the phone call.
Then, I made the second call, the third, and followed by many presentations where I just get better. By the second year of my business, my former colleagues recognized a huge change in my personality. I was no longer the shy, quiet hermit in the company.
I was halfway winning against social anxiety when my business failed. That and a few crisis in my life plunged me into my depression. After spending at least half a year in the deepest darkness of depression, I fought my way out. With a guide of a few self-help programs, I saw the light that totally frees me of my social anxiety.
I have nothing against taking prescription drugs if your doctors feel it’s necessary for your condition. And I would have gladly welcomed the hordes of alternative remedies you have today: CBT, hypnotherapy, mindfulness or GABA. Trust me, they would have easily shortened my 15 years of battle with social anxiety.
But personally having gone through the hard way of beating social anxiety, I found that regardless of the remedies that you are taking, you need to have iron-willed determination in order to conquer this disorder once and for all.
You have to stop asking how long does it take to overcome social anxiety and start telling yourself that you’ll beat it even if it takes forever. That was my approach when I decided to start my business when my social anxiety was at its very worst.
My determination was honed through years of martial art practice the traditional way. It’s about getting hit, fall down and stand back up again. That was my stance against social anxiety. If you’re serious in trying to beat yours, I’ll suggest starting building your determination now. If training martial art does not sound appealing to you, check out this article instead for more ways to strengthening your determination.
I know that our social anxiety disorder may be caused by individual experiences that are unique to each other. Regardless of what causes of our social anxiety, our brain was affected physiologically. The neuron pathway was altered as a result of prolonged and repetitive avoidance and fear based behaviors.
The changes in our brain cause us to perceive normal social interaction as a threat and that activates our fight or flight mode. Regardless of the methods that we use to overcome social anxiety, the key lies in reverting our neuron pathway back to normal.
If you haven’t heard of neuroplasticity, it’s the ability of our brain to reorganize itself by forming new neuron pathway in responding to new situations. This is what happened when I force myself to make phone calls and conduct presentations consistently while trying to keep the fear away.
Note that for the brain to rewire itself, a new behavior needs to be introduced and repeated consistently. In our urgency to overcome social anxiety, sometimes we would pick up a new therapy or method, tried for a couple of weeks and stopped because we feel that it doesn’t work. The problem lies in us not trying hard and long enough.
Because it takes time for our brain to rewire itself, it feels that we are going to stay in the present situation forever. I’m telling you that nothing stays the same forever if you are committed to a certain method for a long period of time.
The thing is, I do not believe that there is a single ultimate remedy for social anxiety. There just isn’t any magic pill available that you could take and your anxiety will disappear for good tomorrow. It takes a lot of mental and physical work to overcome social anxiety.
What I’ve never tried is prescription medicine and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. As I’ve mentioned, I didn’t seek any therapist because I merely thought it was just me being a painfully shy introvert. In my recent relapse, I’ve found hypnosis from professional hypnotherapists an effective method in dealing with social anxiety. And it doesn’t cost a bomb.
With that said, I believe it takes a combination of some if not all of these methods to give you the winning edge against social anxiety.
So, can social anxiety be cured? Or is it going to be your lifelong burden? I believe that overcoming social anxiety for good is very possible, as long as you are very determined and doesn’t give up. Plus, knowing the right methods may cut short the duration it takes to fully overcome your social anxiety.
Do you think it’s possible to truly overcome social anxiety? Share your thoughts in the comment below.
I am an engineer-turned-writer who once struggle with social anxiety. After overcoming problems inflicted by low self-esteem and the fear of interaction, I realize the need for taking a holistic approach in developing our mind. I'm sharing my experience, remedies, and techniques that interest me in my quest to be a better self.
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