There was nothing special about your day, and then a thought creeps in out of nowhere when you least expect it. A simple negative thought like “Everyone is going to make fun of me” can be the catalyst for an avalanche of anxiety that is too overwhelming to handle. If you’re struggling with social anxiety, any extra anxiety or stress can make your everyday responsibilities feel like insurmountable challenges.
If you’re looking to break free from the hold that your anxiety has on your life, the first step is understanding how your thoughts impact your mental health. In this post, we’re going to dive into the link between negative automatic thoughts and social anxiety disorder.
What Are Negative Automatic Thoughts?
Many of your thoughts happen automatically, which is a good thing, because you don’t have to remember to wake up, eat breakfast, go to work and so on. Negative automatic thoughts are a stream of thoughts that try to convince you there’s a more insidious nature behind what’s happening to you. For example, it’s common for people with social anxiety to have a fear of going out to a party. A negative automatic thought like “I don’t belong here” or “I’m a loser and no one is going to talk to me” might pop into your head.
Once you notice your negative automatic thoughts, it’s difficult to stop them from gaining momentum. Think of it as a seed of doubt that grows every time you give it attention. Unfortunately, negative automatic thoughts often escalate your social anxiety to the point where you feel trapped in a cycle of uncertainty. The good news is that you have the potential to overcome negative automatic thoughts, and it all starts by learning how to identify them.
How to Identify Negative Automatic Thoughts
While identifying your negative automatic thoughts might seem a bit intimidating at first, it’s not as difficult as it seems, because they share the following characteristics:
- They’re always negative in nature.
- They’re usually self-sabotaging and try to erode your confidence.
- You’re not actively inviting them into your thought process.
- They try to make you feel bad about yourself.
- They try to paint the future in a negative light with no real evidence.
- They make you believe that anything short of perfection is failure.
Once you start recognizing your negative automatic thoughts, you’ll be able to challenge them. It’s an opportunity to put these negative thoughts under a realistic and logical lens. If you’re paired with a new co-worker for a project, your anxiety will try to convince you that you’re not going to be able to pull your own weight. After you identify that thought as a negative one, you’ll have an easier time realizing that there’s no way you could know a fact like that so early on in the experience.
The Connection Between Social Anxiety and Negative Thinking
Part of what makes social anxiety disorder tough to manage is how it can often push you into unhealthy thinking styles. There are certain traits associated with negative automatic thoughts that can add fuel to that fire. Catastrophizing is when your mind turns small problems into big ones by blowing them out of proportion. This thought process is especially detrimental if you have social anxiety, because it can drive your attention to the underlying issues behind the condition.
Another common negative thought process is called emotional reasoning. It’s the belief that since you’re feeling something, it has to be true. Before an important presentation at work, your social anxiety tries to convince you it will be a disaster. Since you feel that way, your negative automatic thought process makes you believe it’s real. In this example, just as in many others, negative automatic thoughts worsen your social anxiety by overwhelming your ability to find a sense of calm.
If social anxiety disorder is making your life more difficult to manage, or if you’ve turned to drugs or alcohol to cope, there’s hope for lasting recovery.
Explore Premier Mental Health Treatment in Arizona
At Fountain Hills Recovery, we know how hard it can be to struggle with social anxiety disorder, since there is no immediate cure. Our mental health services were originally designed to help first responders overcome the trauma they face every day. Since then, we’ve helped people just like you break free from the hold that their anxiety disorder has over their life. Contact our admissions team today to learn more about how we can help you.