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New College Students Urged to Confront Their Social Anxiety

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SATURDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Anxiety can be a problem for some college and university freshmen, but there are a number of ways they can cope with new experiences and challenges, an expert suggests.

The first step is to get to know your anxiety, Martin M. Antony, a psychology professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, advises in a university news release.

Understanding the nature of your discomfort can help reduce your anxiety, he explains. Ask yourself what triggers your anxiety and if there are certain situations that make you feel uncomfortable, such as making friends, giving presentations, speaking with professors, or being stared at by others.

Examine the thoughts and predictions that contribute to your anxiety. For example, do you worry what others may think about you or that others may regard you as incompetent, boring or unattractive, or that you'll be embarrassed or humiliated?

Assess your physical symptoms in social situations. Do you blush, sweat, shake or lose your train of thought?

The next step is to challenge your anxious thinking, Antony recommends. Don't assume that your anxiety-triggering beliefs are true. Challenge the validity of those thoughts. Also, try to change the way you think about social situations and attempt to view them in the same way as someone without social anxiety.

Instead of avoiding situations that provoke fear and anxiety, confront them, Antony urges. For example, if you would normally sit in the back row to avoid being called on by the professor, try sitting in the front row.

Avoiding situations in order to feel safe may simply reinforce feelings of anxiety. It's better to expose yourself to situations you fear over and over again until you feel comfortable, even though you will need to be prepared to feel uncomfortable during the first few "exposure" practices, Antony said.

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