This problem can come from a variety of causes. Take a look at the following causes, and see what fits the best for you:
You never learned social skills as a child. Social situations have always been hard for you, and this has just gotten worse over the years.
You experienced childhood neglect, abandonment or abuse, and this set up a pattern of fear that has turned into a generalized anxiety disorder that has become a social anxiety disorder.
One or both of your parents were introverts, and you have followed in their footsteps. Add a few embarrassing and awkward situations in your adult life, and this is easily enough to cause anxiety attacks.
You have experienced some kind of trauma as an adult or adolescent, and you withdrew into yourself as a result. Again, this built on itself over time, and developed into a level of anxiety that has become unmanageable.
If you don't find something that rings true here, then keep looking. I assure you there is a good reason for your social anxiety, and the reason is not that there's something basically wrong with you. You're a good person, with a lot to offer, and you're struggling with a problem--that doesn't make you bad or sick or crazy, that makes you human.
Next use some type of breathing (such as the one below) and/or meditation process to regularly practice relaxation, and to train your mind and body to be more calm.
The third step in your do-it-yourself anxiety healing skills is another imagery process. This two-part exercise will really work well for you, if you use it. It combines visualization and imagination for a positive mental rehearsal of your desired future outcomes.
Our Nurturing Your Inner Child audio CD program will help you with every step in this process. I strongly encourage you to get your copy today!
Here is a breathing exercise that will also help you. I learned it from Dr. Andrew Weil's audio program, Spontaneous Healing. He says that this breathing process is the single most effective treatment for anxiety he has ever used. Here are the steps:
Sit in an erect posture, or lie on your back on a flat surface.
Put your tongue lightly against the roof of your mouth, and slightly part your lips.
Breathe rapidly in and out through your nose, to the count of 60 (roughly sixty seconds). This will take some getting used to. If you start getting light-headed, just slow down your breathing until the light-headedness passes.
Breathe in through your nose to the count of four.
Hold your breath to the count of seven.
Breathe out through your mouth to the count of eight, making an audible "whoosh" sound as you exhale.
Repeat the inhale, hold and exhale process (d., e. and f.) three times.
What Are The Basic Social Skills?
Social skills are not complicated, it's just that the anxiety makes them difficult to use. As I mentioned above, social anxiety disorder can sometimes be caused partially by not having good social skills.
Let's take a look at them now--remember, these are just the basics:
Eye contact. That's right, if you don't do this one, the others will flop.
Smiles. I know, this might seem dorky, but you can't argue with results. People who don't smile just flat have more social problems than people who do.
Hand shakes--I told you it was going to be basic. Shaking hands makes a good first impression, and not offering your hand can sometimes seem downright unfriendly.
Saying hello, hi or how're you doing and calling the other person's name (if you know it). People just appreciate being called by their name.
Sincerely asking the other person about something in their own life, and then being willing and able to listen.
Keeping it positive. No matter how common it is to complain, attack or criticize, it's much more socially desirable to make neutral or positive comments about the other person or the topic you're discussing.
Be willing to express agreement with the other person, or empathy, in the form of statements like, "I know what you mean," or "I hear you."
Asking friendly questions, like, "Where do you live," "Have you seen that movie?" and other interactions that are generally considered "small talk."
I know you might be thinking, "Isn't there a pill I can take for social anxiety disorder?" The answer is yes, there are lots of pills you can take! The question is, what results will you get?
The only problem is that pills (medication) treat symptoms--the racing thoughts, heart palpitations, shallow breathing; and medication does not get to the cause.
P.S. Social anxiety disorder does not have a chemical cause, and therefore there is not a long term chemical solution. These tools described above will help you get to the cause and implement a permanent cure for your anxiety disorder.