07/23/2024

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Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world, but its impact on people’s lives remains largely misunderstood, according to psychology researcher Dr. Fallon Goodman. “Essentially, social anxiety is the fear of rejection,” she says. “Our fear of rejection is actually a fear of being rejected. Less than who we want to be, less than who we think we should be, or less than who society wants us to be.”

In her TEDx talk, “Social Anxiety in the Modern World,” Goodman addresses several popular myths about the disorder and outlines three simple strategies that can help.

A very common misconception is that people with social anxiety are happier alone. Goodman’s research found the exact opposite. People with social anxiety disorder crave strong, intimate relationships just as much as anyone else and are perfectly capable of enjoying social situations.

Another myth is that people with social anxiety disorder avoid the spotlight. Goodman cites examples of actors, models and athletes who have pursued careers in very public areas, but also struggle with social anxiety, especially tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who herself talks about how she feels about “performing” on the court versus. in other aspects of her life.

In the end, the idea that anxiety is transient and harmless is simply not true. “Without intervention, many people will struggle with social anxiety for years and decades,” Goodman says. “Social anxiety can affect every aspect of a person’s life.”

What can we do about social phobia?
Identify the problem early.

In many cases, Goodman notes, people who exhibit social anxiety may go on to develop other mental health problems, including depression and alcohol addiction. Early detection and intervention can help prevent this, and Goodman believes this can be very simple to achieve at institutions such as high schools and colleges.

“Social anxiety can be reliably and accurately flagged by asking just a few simple questions,” she says. “Is your fear of rejection your greatest fear? Does your fear prevent you from doing the things you want to do? …… The cost of asking these questions: 30 seconds and zero dollars.”

Leverage your platform.

“One of the benefits of living in this connected world is the amount of power one can have,” Goodman says. “Regular, honest and forthcoming conversations about mental illness will ultimately reduce stigma, correct harmful myths and get people the help they need.”

Foster social courage.

Ultimately, Goodman believes that dealing with social anxiety is not about avoiding or eliminating rejection. “Being socially courageous means pursuing experiences and knowing that your chances of being rejected are not zero,” she says. “Becoming socially courageous means pursuing experiences because they are important to you and knowing that the success of those pursuits is not dependent on your worth as a person.”

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