Social anxiety can be extremely difficult to endure 365 days of the year, yet there is something about summer that seems to aggravate the pains of social anxiety for so many people. The endless list of social gatherings during the season can make the thought of facing the world unbearable — and make the thought of staying home in the comfort of your sweats, and near the comfort of your couch, all too overpowering.

The temptation to run and hide from social situations can be strong, but this summer, you can learn to take your life back from the grasp of social anxiety. In order to better treat your condition, it helps to first more fully understand the problem:

What exactly is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is a specific type of anxiety disorder that causes individuals to be excessively afraid of, or stressed out by, social situations. Socially-anxious individuals experience an extreme fear of being judged, ridiculed, or thought of poorly by other people at social situations. Many individuals who suffer from social anxiety experience “anticipatory anxiety” for hours, days, or even weeks leading up to an event. The fear is often strong enough to prevent them from attending altogether.

Social anxiety is physically manifested in a variety of ways including: sweating, pounding heart, nausea or upset stomach, shaking, redness or blushing, shortness of breath, and, in extreme cases, passing out, vomiting, or developing into a panic attack.

Social anxiety and the summer months

While the warm weather may be a dream for the classic “social butterfly,” a person with social anxiety disorder may repeatedly face anxiety and uneasiness from a variety of summertime situations. With an endless array of pool parties, barbeques, outdoor sports, neighborhood gatherings and weddings, people with social anxiety are often forced to endure week after week of extreme discomfort and fear during the summer.

Fighting back against social anxiety year-round

Whether you have suffered from social anxiety for years, or are just now recognizing the symptoms of the condition in your life, it is possible to fight back and work through your anxiety.

During the busy and fun-filled summer months, you and your therapist can begin using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you take control of your life. While it will undoubtedly be difficult for you to work through, summertime events are the perfect testing ground for you to practice and perfect your CBT strategies.

As a specific style of therapy, CBT’s main focus is to change thought distortions and challenge negative thinking, making room for more uplifting and realistic ways of looking at the world. In short, thoughts control feelings — and changing your thoughts allows you to change your feelings.

Counseling to improve self-esteem and social skills, as well as relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, may also help a person deal with social anxiety disorder. Medication can also be prescribed, and you should consult with your doctor to discuss possible options.

Social anxiety is a powerful force, and it can be difficult to face your fears during summer’s many large social gatherings. Commit this season to challenge your anxiety, and make changes to improve your life. The process will take time, but don’t give up — and don’t go home!