what helped the most was the concept of mindsets and the idea that you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts come at you but only have an emotional impact if you buy into the reality of them, and when I'm feeling really down in the dumps I just recognize that I have a sh1tty mindset and change it to a more self serving one.
Shame and judgements about having this "disorder" perpetuate it. I believe that shame will keep a person locked in this same lonely and painful experience.
THIS. I've had social anxiety ever since I can remember, dealing with irrational amounts of fear and shame around it. People used to think I was stuck up and cold because I was so afraid to acknowledge them. I ate lunch in the bathroom to avoid having to meet new people, etc. etc., you get the idea.
I started seeing a therapist after my parents' divorce, and she called attention to my self-judgements. What triggered my anxiety were thoughts like, "What's wrong with you? Be more like that outgoing person. Look, you're failing again. Look, they hate you, of course they don't want to talk to you. What you have to say is stupid." Of course, when I had thoughts like this, I acted strange outwardly. People can sense when someone they're talking to is uncomfortable, and they can't help but reflect it back. My therapist put it this way: would you want to have a conversation with someone who didn't respond, who didn't contribute, who made you do all the work?
This made me realize that people didn't want to talk to me NOT because of who I am, but because of the way I acted. This is huge, because it means there is nothing wrong with me as a person. In fact, in the few times I could be relaxed and open with people, they ended up liking me.
Self-judgement is the root of all the fear and anger I felt. And it really had nothing to do with reality. When I trained myself to actually LIKE the fact that I was shy, to accept it and be proud of it, my anxiety grew weaker and weaker. Shyness is a part of who I am, and I'm proud of that. While I'm still quiet, it's not because I'm afraid of talking. It's because I'm thoughtful about what I say. When I notice the judgmental thoughts, I catch myself and say, "No. That's not true. You're quiet, and that's okay. That person doesn't hate you. Just relax."
And I found that when you don't feed that nasty little voice in your head by believing it... it starts to get weaker. It will always be there, but now I'm not ruled by it. I can just notice it, and laugh at how irrational it is. Because I know there's nothing wrong with me, and even if I mess something up, I'm okay.
Since then I've traveled by myself to Southeast Asia, Central America and Africa, have put myself in a work situation where I constantly have to deal with people, and I'm learning the work it takes to maintain friendships. I still need a lot of time to myself, and that's totally fine. But I no longer feel guilty about it.
For me, self esteem was the problem. As soon as I started working on accepting myself and all my faults, my problems with anxiety melted away.