How to Overcome Social Anxiety?

05 August, 2018
Q Since my childhood, I have been anxious in large crowds, especially in crowds full of strangers, so much so that I spend a lot of my free time at home. Time outside in situations with people, I find myself struggling to find a topic of conversation or continuing on with a subject. I find myself saying things at the wrong time, or reacting oddly to other people’s reactions. At times, I seem to incorrectly read people’s emotions, whether spoken or not, and I tend to get angry and frustrated when there is no need to be.

Because of this, I am conflicted, because when I am at home, I wish to be out with people doing something, but when I am around my friends and family, though I do enjoy it for some time, I end up wishing I were back at home. Normally, I find myself not wanting to be in the middle of attention, because that would just cause me to be anxious and almost rather be dead than in that moment. However, recently, I have been wanting some sort of emotional attention. What do I do?

Answer


In this counseling answer:

• I encourage you to start a journal and list your feelings and thoughts when you are socializing.

• Daily socialization done in increasing increments can help condition the mind and responses towards positive and enjoyable interactions.


As-Salamu ‘Alaykum,

Thank you for writing to us. I am sorry to hear of your issues with anxiety. While I do not know your current age, what your “odd” reactions are, or if you have other symptoms which are features of social anxiety, panic disorder, depression, low self-esteem, and so forth, from what you have written, it does appear that you may have social anxiety although I cannot diagnose you.

Oftentimes, those with social anxiety, or generalized anxiety, do have problems relating to others around them. Therefore, they tend to self-isolate and want to remain home or stay in a “safe zone”. This can result in decreased communication skills (which you are experiencing) as well as an inability to sustain meaningful conversations without discomfort. There can be misconceptions in communication as well as feelings of fear, anger, or a need to “want to go home”.  As this has been occurring since childhood, it appears that it is a longstanding issue for you.

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In sha’ Allah, I encourage you to start a journal and list your feelings and thoughts when you are socializing. Reflect on not only what you are thinking at the time, but how your body is reacting (i.e. problems breathing, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, etc.). Then, write down at least ten of your positive traits, skills, accomplishments, hopes, aspirations, and the kind, charitable things you do. You will be surprised at how quickly that list builds up. Review it weekly to see how blessed and capable you are.

Often times, people with anxiety may suffer from low self-esteem as well and may be reluctant to express themselves. This leads to incorrect communication, frustration and reinforces the fear and inability to acclimate towards daily socialization. Often torn between fear/anxiety and a desire to interact with others on a socially enjoyable level, those with anxiety face a dilemma. To either commit to overcoming their anxiety or to allow it to continue to spiral out of control, thus, leading to a “conflicted lifestyle”.


Check out this counseling video:


Daily socialization done in increasing increments can help condition the mind and responses towards positive and enjoyable interactions. If you start socializing a half hour every day and work up to two hours over the course of a few months (or however long it takes you), this will in effect train your mind and emotions to get used to being in interactive environments.

By committing to a schedule, you are also building up social skills and learning new ways to decipher others body language and verbal meanings. By building up your social time slowly, you are taking the pressure off of having to endure long periods of socializing, thus, reducing your fear and anxiety. In sha’ Allah, view your future as an opportunity to grow and succeed socially. In sha’ Allah, do not linger in your past with a state of expected anxiety but tell yourself you will, in sha’ Allah, overcome this as you start to visualize shining in your own light that you will create.

I would also kindly suggest that you get counseling for the social anxiety.  Also, join a support group for Social Anxiety wherein you will learn more about the disorder, hear experiences of others who are going through the same thing that you are, and you will learn new coping and communication skills, In sha’ Allah.

Anxiety, and social anxiety, in particular, is a very common disorder affecting millions of adults, so you are not alone! While its symptoms are uncomfortable such as fear of speaking in public, feeling people will judge, feeling self-conscious, avoiding situations and people as well as other symptoms, it is quite treatable. Psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy) is one very successful tool.

In addition to increasing your self-esteem and addressing your social anxiety via counseling, I urge you to keep in prayer, make du’aa’ that Allah (swt) relieves this from you, find solace, healing, and relaxation in dhzikr, and trust in Allah (swt), for He (swt) is the greatest healers.

Also, every time you feel anxious or fearful, take a deep breath in through your nose saying 7 times “astaghfir Allah rabbi wa attubi alayhi” before breathing out again. When you breathe out, make sure you breathe out through your mouth. Then recite Ayat ul KursiIn sha’ Allah, this should bring you great relief while promoting relaxation and feelings of safety.

I have confidence that once you begin to work on these issues and see the full potential of you, as a socially competent individual, you will become much happier and have confidence in your ability to function socially, In sha’ Allah. Make du’aa’ to Allah (swt) that He (swt) guides you, as Allah (swt) knows best.

Allah (swt) hears all our prayers and He (swt) knows all our longings and needs more so than we do.  Allah (swt) states in the Qur’an:

“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” (2:186)

You are in our prayers. Please, let us know how you are doing.

Salam,

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

Social Anxiety Inhibits my Faith

How to Manage Your Social Anxiety

How to Overcome Social Anxiety & Find My Life Goals?

About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.