Safety Behaviors in Social Anxiety

What Are Safety Behaviors in Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is something that affects too many individuals worldwide, and there are different behaviors that individuals might use to cope with these feelings of nervousness and uneasiness. Someone might feel anxiety when around others due to fear of being judged, fear of saying the wrong thing, or fear of doing something that one might perceive as embarrassing. There are different safety behaviors and tactics that those with prominent social anxiety use that can make one feel better about the situations at hand. Anxiety is a tricky thing to navigate, and it is not something that anyone should have to figure out alone. If you are in the area of Southlake, anxiety can be alleviated with the assistance of the best psychiatry team known as Dr. Messina & Associates. There are numerous strategies that can be implemented to ease the struggles that come with social anxiety, and we are going to consider what these safety behaviors are and how one can learn to cope with unwanted social anxiety.


Common Safety Behaviors

Safety behaviors might look like a number of things and vary from person to person, but there are certainly ones that are more typically seen than others. Safety behaviors are the coping strategies that different people use to feel more safe and secure in social situations or in public. These behaviors may appear to be lessening the anxiety that is felt in the moment, but in reality, they just end up perpetuating the anxiety that is present and giving it the fuel that it craves. This is not to say that it is simple to just stop utilizing any safety behaviors suddenly, because this is certainly not the case. It is a vulnerable feeling to sense heightened anxiety when around so many others or when put on the spot and masking the physical manifestation of the anxiety allows one to feel more in control and steady. Let’s talk about what some of these safety behaviors often look like:


Avoidance is a broad term to describe some of the safety behaviors that one might use when in social situations they do not want to be in. This is the most common form of safety behavior that is expressed, and it can make its appearance in a variety of ways. Avoidance may show up as not attending gatherings out of fear of being around others, avoiding looking someone directly in the eye when talking to them, and avoiding trying new things and having ne experiences. The thought process behind this safety behavior is that if one can evade these uncomfortable situations, they will be safer and more secure.

 Using mind-altering substances

The next safety behavior that happens to be more harmful than some other ones is using mind-altering substances to circumvent difficult scenarios. This might mean that someone drinks or uses a certain drug before social interactions, or they will only go to a social environment if these substances are going to be present. These substances may have a relaxing and calming effect on the mind that makes being around others more tolerable and overall manageable. This is a behavior that is extremely dangerous and can lead to a dependency, which is never something that is positive or beneficial.

Dressing a certain way

The next strategy that is commonly used in individuals with a social anxiety disorder is dressing a particular way when out in public and around others. Someone may wear clothing that fully covers them as an effort to deflect attention from their being, or they might only choose to wear basic and simple clothing items that will not cause anyone to pay too much attention. It might even be in the height of summer, yet an individual with social anxiety will wear several layers in an attempt to “hide” away from others and hope that they go unnoticed.

Talking fast or quietly

Another very common social anxiety safety behavior that is often enacted is talking either too fast or with little volume-or both. Someone might talk extra fast in order to complete a social interaction with another person as quickly as possible or speak quietly out of lack of confidence and fear that they will be judged by others.

These are all very regularly used safety behaviors in social anxiety, which offer short term relief from a much bigger problem at hand. Luckily, there are healthy and more long-lasting coping mechanisms available to those that find themselves using various safety behaviors.


Coping with Social Anxiety

 When it comes to coping with social anxiety, there are several different techniques that can be useful to each individual person. Practicing how to communicate in small ways, as well as more efficiently and clearly can make a phenomenal difference in the levels of social anxiety that one feels. Other coping mechanisms include making an effort to achieve eye contact whenever possible in social situations, taking baby steps towards facing fears, such as public speaking or meeting new people, and being mindful of the speed and volume at which you are talking when the situation presents itself. Practicing deep breathing and being sure to not make assumptions about what others might be thinking about you can also help immensely whenever you are in social settings. Of course, meeting with a therapist and applying any methods they can suggest for diminishing the existence of social anxiety and safety behaviors is always a very advantageous approach.

Social anxiety is an unbearable feeling to frequently have, and it is not one that anyone wants to live with on a regular basis. It is normal to have some level of anxiety once in a while under certain circumstances, because this is just a part of being human and our energy and mental state is constantly shifting depending on so many various factors. If you feel as if your social anxiety is routinely appearing and you are using safety behaviors in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms that are felt, it can only help in the long run to try getting to the root of the problem by using healthy coping mechanisms and working with a licensed mental health professional.


Getting Help

If you or someone you love are in need of psychiatric services for anxiety, please reach out to our team in Southlake, TX. We specialize in handling anxiety and depression in children, adolecents, and adults through cognitive behavioral therapy and medication management. We currently offer in-person appointments to patients in our Southlake (DFW) offices. We also offer online appointments to patients in the Austin, DFW, Houston, and San Antonion areas. 




Dr. Michael Messina

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