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Many of us may feel anxious in new or unexpected situations. From public speaking to hosting family members, social situations can make anyone feel unsettled and nervous. When these worries become persistent and intense in any social setting, nervousness can morph into a social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder characterised by the fear of social situations in which there is a chance of being judged or scrutinized by others (e.g. meeting strangers, starting conversations, dating), with an emphasis on being scared of embarrassment, humiliation, and rejection. Individuals with social anxiety may have trouble speaking with new people, attending social gatherings, and meeting friends.

During lockdown, we have been urged to follow social distancing guidelines. While this physical distance might have provided some temporary relief for those with social anxiety, a lack of social interaction can reinforce and maintain social anxiety. A rise in anxiety has been seen in the general population as well. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between March 20th and March 30th 2020, almost half of the people in Great Britain (49,6%) reported experiencing “high” anxiety, a drastic increase compared with the end of 2019 (with 21% reporting high anxiety levels). While feeling anxious in certain situations is short-term, social anxiety disorder is persistent and can disrupt one’s life- as it can affect one’s ability to work, attend school, maintain social relationships, and enjoy aspects of life. Social anxiety disorder is a common issue that usually starts early in life, due to family history or negative experiences, and if it’s left untreated can have a big impact on the rest of your life.

Social anxiety has been found to reduce positive emotions. Individuals with higher rates of social anxiety have been associated with lower positive affect, and experience fewer positive events in everyday life, especially on days when they are more anxious. A study into the relationship between individuals with social anxiety and quality of life found that fear of both negative and positive evaluation were associated with lower scores on the Quality of Life Inventory. Additionally, social anxiety is associated with greater rates of self-reported loneliness, compared with a control group. This is concerning, as loneliness is linked with a variety of health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and dementia.

For some people, social anxiety decreases as they get older, but for others it requires treatment. According to the NHS, if you suspect you have anxiety and it is having an impact on your life, it’s a good idea to contact your GP and consider seeking help managing the symptoms. Many people struggle with anxiety, especially social anxiety, and there are plenty of skills that can be acquired and treatments that can aid in reducing anxiety. Self-help tips include activities that one can do in any situation. Keeping a journal can help you in reaching a greater understanding of everyday anxiety, by writing down your thoughts you will be able to examine them more critically. Understanding what goes through our minds when we feel nervous is a useful first step in being able to change our train of thought, and replace negative thinking with a more positive approach. Breathing exercises, and other relaxation techniques can help alleviate certain symptoms of anxiety and help us feel better in stressful situations. Getting enough sleep is crucial. Individuals with anxiety disorders are more likely to develop insomnia, and other sleep disturbances, during periods of stress.

The NHS also provides a variety of self-help leaflets, and the NHS Apps Library has several relaxation and mindfulness apps available for download. To counter feelings of isolation and the lack of interaction due to lockdown guidelines, at FitQuid we encourage you to continue socialising as much as you can. It’s vital for us to keep in contact with our loved ones to help our mental health. Different methods such as phone calls or texts, video-calls, emails, and letters are all good ways of staying connected with our friends and family. Here at FitQuid we aim to help build healthier and happier communities, by providing support to our users.

Auri Carballo

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