Social anxiety affects about 7% of the total population at any given time, and nurses are no exception. Even though nursing is one of the most people-oriented jobs you’ll find, it’s not uncommon for nurses to struggle with certain social aspects at work. Nurses with social anxiety have their own unique set of challenges and difficulties when dealing with this issue. Luckily for them, it’s not impossible to find everyday solutions. Here we’ll take a look at some of the ways nurses can deal with their social anxiety and continue enjoying their professional lives.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people, according to SocialPhobia.org. Social anxiety can sometimes involve the fear of being negatively judged or evaluated by others, and it can be a pervasive disorder that causes tension in most areas of a person’s life. This condition is considered chronic since it doesn’t usually go away without seeking a solution.
People with social anxiety are seen by others as being shy, quiet, nervous, aloof, or just generally disinterested. However, social anxiety often clashes with someone’s true desire to be social and engage with others. When it comes to nursing, nurses are required to interact with patients on a very social and personal level — things that can be made difficult by social anxiety.
Nurses with Social Anxiety
Hospitals are places where communication and teamwork are held to very high standards, so nurses with social anxiety face their own set of unique challenges in addition to those presented by the job itself. While it isn’t impossible for nurses with social anxiety to overcome their condition, it definitely takes focus and some proven techniques.
Anxiety could come when meeting with new patients, working alongside other staff, or randomly on one’s lunch break — there’s often no rhyme or reason to feelings of social anxiety. Other times, social anxiety can be something that builds up over long periods of time while in a certain environment. For this reason, travel nurse jobs are a possible way for those with social anxiety to find new locations that may be better for them.
Although social anxiety can occur at seemingly random times for certain people, there are also common triggers to be aware of:
- Being introduced to other people
- Being criticized
- Becoming the center of attention
- Being observed while doing something
- Having to speak in a formal or public situation
- Meeting with authority figures
Although these are just a few of the things that may cause feelings of social anxiety, it is important for sufferers to begin tracking what things cause them this distress. This way they can start to progress in a positive way. In addition to environmental factors playing into someone’s anxiety, there are also distinct emotional symptoms that can come with this condition:
- Automatic negative emotional cycles
- Racing heart
- Excessive sweating
- Dry throat and mouth
- Muscle Twitches
Again, these aren’t the full range of symptoms nurses with social anxiety and others may experience, however, it’s important to recognize that these things do happen to people when they get anxious.
How to Help
In many cases, people who have social anxiety do recognize that their anxiety is irrational, or not based on facts but rather feelings. Regardless, it’s important to remember that social anxiety is something that can be treated, no matter how severe it is.
Nurses with social anxiety may know better than most that clinical treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy have been markedly successful. Basically, this involves engaging in practical activities that are mildly anxiety-causing, working to learn new ways of dealing with negative feelings in a repetitive and practiced manner. Eventually, the goal is to create new neural pathways that respond almost unconsciously, yet positively, during situations that once caused social anxiety. It takes a considerable amount of dedication, although many studies have indicated CBT as a genuine method of helping people to overcome social anxiety.
There are, of course, medications available for nurses with social anxiety. However, it’s often recommended to undergo CBT in conjunction with any pharmacological option for the best results. This is a matter of individual brain chemistry and isn’t always the best option for certain people.
Nursing can be a very stressful profession and social anxiety doesn’t make that any easier. That said, it’s important to recognize this condition in yourself and others in order to make the positive changes needed. Not only will overcoming social anxiety as a nurse help professionally, but it’s likely to allow great improvements in other areas of life as well. For more information and resources on social anxiety, be sure to check out websites like SocialPhobia.org or the Social Anxiety Institute.
Are you a travel nurse dealing with social anxiety? We’d love to hear from you and what you do to stay positive!