You’re thinking about a career as a teacher because you love kids and are passionate about certain subjects. There’s one problem: you have intense fear when it comes to public speaking and aren’t sure you can talk to a room full of kids every day. You may be suffering from social anxiety.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder, sometimes called social phobia, is a long-term and crushing fear of social situations. It’s a widespread problem that normally begins during the teen years. The disorder can be very stressful and have a huge effect on your life. Some people notice that it gets better as they age and mature. But it doesn’t always go away on its own without treatment. In cases such as this, counseling and ketamine therapy may help.
Social anxiety, like other mental illnesses, features emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms:
Emotional and Behavioral
- Fear of situations where you may be judged by others
- Worrying about humiliating or embarrassing yourself
- Extreme fear of intermingling or talking with strangers
- Fear that others will see that you appear anxious
- Fast heartbeat
- Trembling or sweating
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Problems catching your breath
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Feeling like your mind has gone empty
- Muscle tension
The Effect of Social Anxiety on Public Speaking
The fear of public speaking is huge, outdistancing phobias of spiders, death, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health says that public speaking anxiety, also known as “glossophobia,” affects about 73 percent of the U.S. The underlying fear is negative evaluation or judgment by others. Public speaking anxiety is regarded as a social anxiety disorder.
Fear of public speaking is a widespread form of anxiety. It can show as minor nervousness to paralyzing fear and panic. Many people experiencing this avoid public speaking like it’s a contagion, or they suffer through it with a quivering voice and shaking hands.
Is Social Anxiety Contagious?
Social anxiety isn’t something that spreads amongst people through physical contact or as an airborne virus, but it can be picked up by a phenomenon known as social contagion. This sometimes happens in large crowds and scientists have researched for decades what makes crowd behavior possible. If you’re already suffering from anxiety, fear, or other phobias, the sight of someone in public struggling with the same emotions can influence how you react emotionally and physically.
Overcome Your Fears
To overcome social anxiety and fear of public speaking, try the following:
- Practice speaking alone to yourself, in a mirror. You must talk loud enough to hear what you’re saying. Speak at a normal pace, and don’t forget to breathe.
- Learn as much as possible about social anxiety, and jot down notes when you feel the symptoms coming on.
- Breathing exercises for stress and other relaxation techniques may help.
- Work slowly to overcome stressful situations.
Yes, Your Brain Freezes
There’s a biological basis for social anxiety. The prefrontal lobes of our brain sort our memories and can be sensitive to anxiety. Dr. Michael DeGeorgia, Case Western University Hospitals, says, “If your brain starts to freeze up, you get more stressed and the stress hormones go even higher. That shuts down the frontal lobe and disconnects it from the rest of the brain. It makes it even harder to retrieve those memories.”
Our natural fight-or-flight response triggers complex bodily changes for protection. Threats require immediate action. If an out-of-control vehicle is barreling down on you while you’re jogging, you don’t need to debate whether to jump to safety. Public speaking isn’t nearly as dangerous, but the threat area of the human brain doesn’t know that.
If you’re suffering from social anxiety or another mental illness, getting diagnosed is the first step to finding a way to relieve its symptoms. A doctor will look for a medical cause of the anxiety, and then you’ll undergo a mental evaluation to determine a psychological basis for your anxiety.
Ketamine Therapy and Social Anxiety
Medical doctors and mental health professionals may recommend several options to control symptoms of social anxiety and fear of public speaking. In-person or group therapy is an option, not to mention certain medicine and classes you can take to hone public speaking skills. Serious cases of anxiety may require the use of ketamine therapy to help you manage your symptoms. Ketamine is a medicine originally for anesthesia, but now works in treating mental health conditions.
Social anxiety can affect many aspects of your life. If you’re required to speak in public occasionally, it’s even a bigger problem than you thought. But there are ways to relieve symptoms of social anxiety and gain more confidence when speaking to a crowd, including counseling and using ketamine therapy.