How to stop social anxiety:

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I’m not trying to sound like Zen koan here but a good first step might be — stop trying to stop it:

Study one used a semi-structured interview to assess the use of safety behaviours in high and low socially anxious participants. As predicted from cognitive models, the high social anxiety group reported using a greater number of safety behaviours, more frequently, in a greater number of situations. Both the high and low social anxiety groups perceived their safety behaviours to be helpful. Study two involved experimentally manipulating the use of safety behaviours and self-focus and demonstrated the use of safety behaviours and self-focused attention to be unhelpful in a number of ways. Results support the role of safety behaviours and self-focused attention in the cognitive model of social phobia, and the value of dropping safety behaviours and reducing self-focus as therapeutic strategies in social phobia.

Source: Why social anxiety persists: An experimental investigation of the role of safety behaviours as a maintaining factor” from Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Volume 39, Issue 2, June 2008, Pages 147-161

As I’ve posted before in regard to memory, safety behaviors can reduce confidence in your natural abilties and make situations worse.

I’m not going to give you the trite recommendations of “be yourself” and “just relax.” I don’t think those phrases have helped anyone because, as the study above warns, they just make you focus more on yourself.

There are definitely some social skills that need to be learned and you won’t pick those up just by doing less. (More on those soon.) On the other hand most people with social anxiety make it worse with too much self-monitoring and overcompensation.

In the mean time there are definitely a few quick fixes to help in addressing anxiety here, here and here.

I also recommend Martin Seligman‘s book What You Can Change and What You Can’t: The Complete Guide to Successful Self-Improvement

Obviously, if you’re having serious issues with anxiety you should see a professional.

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