However, Beverley also says our even bigger reliance on social media and digital communication in the midst of lockdown could have a negative impact on people with social anxiety. She says: 'For some people with social anxiety, communication by media can be even harder than communication in person: we know that words form only roughly 7-10% of the way in which we communicate and that we rely on body language, facial expression, tone of voice, and numerous nuances and unconscious cues behind words to convey our thoughts and feelings. 'Without these, can we be sure of being understood, and of not having our communications misconstrued, when they are just black words on a white background? For someone with social anxiety, the notion of just writing something down in a message or email can be much, much harder and more frightening than communicating it in person.' She adds: 'For those with social anxiety, not being in the same room as someone and being on, for example, a Zoom date, can be much easier - the sense of distance created by being online brings about more of a sense of personal control and safety and hence less anxiety.
'Given that they are also "meeting" their date in the comfort of their own home, might this bring about a gentler transition to meeting their date in person when the time comes? For the same reasons, difficult meetings online may also be easier than doing them in person, as there is less chance of picking up on others' emotions which may feel quite overwhelming to someone with social anxiety.'
When it comes to what people with social anxiety can do to feel better as the lockdown situation continues to shift, Dr. Kuss says: 'I recommend being open and honest with their social environments - friends and family will empathise when the concerns are voiced openly. 'Engaging in focused breathing and relaxation may also help alleviate recurring feelings of worry and discomfort. 'Finally, increasing awareness of negative thinking (e.g., "I don't know what to say") may help changing maladaptive cognitive patterns by replacing them with positive ones (e.g., "I am good enough" and "My friends want to see me").'