We may not be completely out of the woods yet with the Covid-19 pandemic, but we are slowly, and surely, easing out into the world again. What does this mean for those who suffer from social anxiety? Social anxiety is a chronic mental health condition in which exposure to social interactions causes irrational, unhealthy anxiety. This fear often keeps those who experience it from wanting to be around others.
While 2020 increased anxiety levels of many as people worried about the health and safety of themselves and loved ones, it also provided some anxiety relief for many who suffer from social anxiety as there was not a lot of leaving the house due to quarantine. A home is a safe place for many of those who live with anxiety and many prefer to be there. Those who enjoy canceling plans or suffer through social interactions due to their anxiety were, in many cases, happy to not have any plans or expectations of them.
While this felt like a relief at the time, now that there is a hint of change, and people are starting to attend social events in person, anxiety will often return for these individuals. And more than likely, it will intensify. Though social gatherings are often difficult to navigate for those with anxiety, the exposure to them, even occasionally, helps future events feel more manageable. The longer the avoidance, the more challenging it is to return without fear of the event. A whole year of avoidance due to a pandemic can send a variety of anxiety sufferers backward in their progress. There may even be anxiety-provoking situations in which a person was not fearful of pre-pandemic that feel difficult to face now.
Coping with Social Anxiety
If you experience an increase in your social anxiety post-pandemic, do know that this is an expected response to an abnormal event, and it will take some work to get comfortable again. It is important to seek out positive supports and find ways to cope with the uncomfortable event as you slowly acclimate back into it.
Mental health professionals are a great help with this and can cater to your specific anxiety. Often, they will walk you through baby steps to gain comfort with your feared situation. For example, your first time out with other people could be a short, socially distanced walk outside with a close friend. The first few outings may feel scary, but often once you get through them, you gain more confidence to face your fears again the next time, and slowly your tolerance level can increase. Some individuals may need to see their doctor for medication to ease the anxiety. This is an equally acceptable way to treat anxiety as each person is different and treatment options can vary based on the individual.
Talking about your concerns and fears can feel difficult. The good news is, doing so is the first step to feeling better once you are able to connect with a professional. Social anxiety is incredibly common and nothing to be ashamed of. With treatment, you can gain the tools to accomplish all you were doing pre-pandemic and more. The important part is seeking help when you need it and knowing that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. You can contact Altru’s Behavioral Health Clinic at 701.780.6697 if you are having issues with your anxiety and need to speak with a counselor. Help is available.