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It’s been a full year. Last March, a wave of funny internet memes emerged. The topics often explored the woes of forced introversion and social anxiety. Dark humor can be quite helpful in dark times. But now, however, the laughs have long since faded. Even folks who never struggled with social anxiety are feeling buried under so many new stressors and unknowns.Yes, the quarantine itself can be the cause of social anxiety disorder. There is no clear end in sight. Thus it has become necessary for us to better understand this condition. We must recognize its triggers and identify self-care steps we can take before things get worse.

What is “Social Anxiety”?

One thing social anxiety is: the third most common psychological disorder in the United States (behind depression and alcoholism). Some individuals struggle with specific social anxiety, e.g. public speaking. Far more common is a generalized form of the disorder of which the hallmarks are:

  • Chronic worry
  • Indecision
  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Anticipatory anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self-blame
  • Feeling inferior

Physiological symptoms may include sweating, increased heart rate, trembling hands, dry mouth, muscle twitches, and blushing. These symptoms and above feelings are most commonly triggered by situations like:

  • Any type of introduction
  • Dealing with strangers and/or authority figures
  • Getting teased or criticized
  • Being made into the center of attention, e.g. when everyone is asked to say something about themselves in a group
  • Any time you’re watched while performing a task

Enter the Quarantine

To bring things back to the memes mentioned above, social distancing would seem like a boon for shy or introverted people. But even the socially aloof thrive on some human contact. A sudden shift to isolation is enough to throw anyone off their game.

Healthy socializing requires practice. Meeting with others can now inspire fears of getting sick and fears of embarrassing oneself. This reality has the power to drive people into further withdrawal. The cycle deepens. There are other recent factors — civil unrest, political division, economic crisis, etc. These increase the likelihood of developing social anxiety.

How to Manage Quarantine-Induced Social Anxiety

Back Away From The Screens

This is foundational. There’s fake news, of course. But even the real news is enough to drive anyone into hiding. Put down your devices, turn off your notifications, and give your mind a mini-vacation. In this setting, you can reclaim the clarity you need to better assess what is and isn’t a risk.

Separate Worrying From Problem-Solving

There are genuine reasons for concern in the world. But, there are always genuine reasons for concern in the world. Worrying is a normal reaction — if temporary. The key, when trying to manage social anxiety, is to move into problem-solving before worrying becomes entrenched. Challenge your inner critic. Anxiety is an excellent liar so fact-check its stories before moving forward. From there, focus on solutions.

Start Small

No one should be expected to rush right back into anything resembling “normalcy.” Take calculated risks and be patient with yourself. Connect with trusted friends and family members and let them know how you’re feeling. Ask them to help you ease back into the swing of things.

Build Some New Routines

The idea of going back to the way things were before can be daunting. Create a new schedule. Fill it with fresh ideas. Re-evaluate as needed.

Practice Self-Care

Prioritize your physical health as you manage your mental health. Safeguard crucial daily functions and patterns, e.g.

  • Stick to steady sleep habits
  • Make healthy eating choices
  • Engage in daily activity and exercise

You Are Not Alone

Plenty of people are struggling these days. There is no shame in needing to step back and reassess what matters to you. Consider therapy as a first step. Read more about anxiety treatment and let’s set up a consultation to talk about your situation and your recovery.