For People with Social Anxiety, Video Calls Are Another Reason to Worry

November 16, 2020 12:20 pm Published by

COVID-19, among its many other changes to daily life, has forced people who prefer to stay out of the shadows into the front and centre of the unforgiving screens required by work, school, or family gatherings. Even if you don’t have a speaking role in one of your video chats, your face will appear just as large that of other people, given that there is no “front” or “back” row. When you are called on to speak, your face can now pop out to dominate the entire screen. What’s more, you can actually see your face while you talk, a situation that does not occur in most real-life settings.

Research on people with SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder) in this new world of video communication has obviously not yet caught up with the current reality. In addition to the fear of public scrutiny, people with SAD have a difficult time seeing themselves in anything but a negative light when they’re in social situations. Even if they get a morale boost when someone congratulates them on their performance, people with SAD can savour this only for a short time. If the feedback is less clearly positive, these individuals put their own pessimistic spin on the situation and can only see when things went wrong. They can’t turn off their self-critical interpretations in which they can only view their flaws.

As people’s negative interpretations grow, so do their emotions. As the individuals with SAD may be less effective at using cognitive reappraisal in their day to day lives, therefore their anxiety builds, they don’t have the coping skills to manage by rethinking the experience in a more measured fashion.

In cognitive reappraisal, you’re able to take what was even potentially a bad situation such as misspeaking in front of your audience, and calm yourself down by thinking about the possibility that no one even noticed your slip of the tongue. Maybe you’re the only one who realised the mistake, and maybe it wasn’t even such a bad mistake.

What can people with SAD do to counteract their tendency to see themselves in a negative light during a social task?

It might be beneficial for clinicians and therapists to guide individuals explicitly to recount and savour positive aspects of their experiences even in instances when these experiences were initially judged as negative, as well as identify aspects of their own behaviour that allowed for the positive outcomes to occur. In other words, they can redirect their attention to what went well rather than what went wrong. The confidence they gain in the process can carry forward to similar situations in the future.

To sum up, it may be beneficial for everyone to give themselves a bit of a break after appearing in a video chat. For people with SAD, it can make the difference between having their emotions escalate out of control vs. being able to see that their performance wasn’t as bad as they thought it was. Video chats may even have the potential to help people with SAD achieve this higher level of comfort and forgiveness. The need for video chats may eventually dissipate, but the benefits of gaining greater self-acceptance might help individuals with social anxiety become more comfortable when the face-to-face world returns.

Through my course, I will teach you how to overcome this negative view you may have on your performance and guide you down a road that can put it all into perspective. Training in ‘video-calling’ can help  you feel more at ease as you will learn to be in control with this particular scenario. It can reframe your mindset, expecting a positive outcome rather than assuming a negative reaction is inevitable. It will allow you to practice your online social skills and successfully address your social challenges by releasing you from feeling self-conscious.

If you need any help or training in this subject, please contact me.

Francine x

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