What Is Social Anxiety

Virtually everyone knows the feeling of being nervous or uncomfortable in a social situation, Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is more than just shyness or occasional nerves in a public or open situation that puts you out of your comfort zone.  People with this panic disorder have trouble talking to people, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings. They fear being judged or scrutinized by others or being the center of attention. About five in a hundred people have some degree of social phobia, with women two or three times more likely to be affected.

Social anxiety disorder involves intense fear of certain social situations—especially situations that are unfamiliar or in which you feel you’ll be watched or evaluated by others. These situations may be so frightening that you get anxious just thinking about them or go to great lengths to avoid them, as they lead to panic, upset and general disruption to your life

Because social anxiety issues are still relatively unknown amongst the wider public, most aren’t even aware that the thing which can have such a huge impact on their lives has a name and diagnosis…


Social anxiety is known to all of us as an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness and embarrassment. It’s different from general shyness that everyone feels. Shyness is usually short-term and doesn’t disrupt your daily life. Social anxiety is persistent and debilitating, A person with a social anxiety disorder may be extremely fearful of embarrassment in social situations. This fear can affect personal and professional relationships. Many people have particular worries about social situations like public speaking in front of other people or talking to authority figures, or experience more general feelings of being embarrassed or humiliated,  shyness or a lack of confidence 

Social anxiety is different from shyness. Shyness is usually short-term and doesn’t disrupt one’s life. Social anxiety is persistent and debilitating. For some, however, these social anxieties and fears can become much more troubling and difficult to cope with. Everyday tasks which most people take for granted – such as working, socialising with friends, shopping, speaking on the telephone, even just going out of the house might be a too big of an ordeal due to persistent feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness. 

How Does Social Anxiety Affect Me


All Ages Can Suffer From Social Anxiety


Social anxiety disorder typically begins in the early to mid-teens, though it can sometimes start in younger children or adults. For some people, it gets better as they get older, although for many it does not go away on its own and has the biggest impact on teenagers ability to work, go to school and develop close friendships or relationships outside of there family.  For children, anxiety about interacting with adults or peers may be shown by crying, having temper tantrums, clinging to parents or refusing to speak in social situations.

A lot of teenagers will suffer from a performance type of social anxiety disorder when you experience intense fear and anxiety only during speaking or performing in public, mostly for the first time, but not in other types of social situations. This shouldn’t be put down compared to the general conversation about social anxiety that heavily affects peoples lives.



It’s perfectly normal to get the jitters before giving a speech. But if you have social anxiety, you might worry for weeks ahead of time, call in sick to get out of it, or start shaking so bad during the speech that you can hardly speak.

Anxiety disorders can run in families. Most people will developed social anxiety disorder as they enter there early teenage years. However, researchers aren’t sure if they’re linked to genetic factors. For example, a child might develop an anxiety disorder by learning from the behaviour of one of their parents raised in over-controlling or overprotective environments. The exact cause of the social phobia is unknown. Research supports the idea that it is made by a combination of environmental factors and genetics. Negative experiences also may contribute to this disorder, including bullying at school, family conflict and arguments and other types of abuse somebody may experience

What Causes Social Anxiety



Feelings of shyness or discomfort in certain situations aren’t necessarily signs of social anxiety disorder, particularly in children.
Sufferers typically experience excessive feelings of nervousness or dread concerning fear in these  social situations: 

  • Dread everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, working or shopping 
  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
    Worry that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the centre of attention
  • Having anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
  • Spending time after a social situation analyzing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions
  • Find it hard to do things when others are watching – you may feel like you’re being watched and judged all the time
  • Expecting the worst possible consequences during a social situation
  • Avoiding social situations or trying to blend into the background if you must attend

If you think your struggling with mental health conditions in emotional and behavioral ways, please speak to a doctor as generalized anxiety disorder might not be your only problem


  • Needing alcohol to face a social situation
  • Missing school or work because of feelings of social anxiety 
  • Blushing in the face
  • Eating disorder
    Substance abuse
    Rapid heart rate when under pressure 
  • Nausea when under pressure
  • Excessive sweating in certain situations 
  • Major depression throughout your day 
  • Trembling or shaking when under pressure
  • Difficulty speaking to new people or new groups 
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness when under pressure
  • Uncontrollable Anxiety attacks 
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the centre of attention
  • Have panic attacks, where you have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, usually only for a few minutes 
Physical Symptoms Of Social Anxiety


Avoiding Social Situations

Most people who suffer from social anxiety will avoid social experiences as much as possible, For example: 

  • Attending parties or social gatherings
  • Interacting with unfamiliar people or strangers
  • Avoiding going to work or school daily 
  • Starting conversations with new people 
  • Making eye contact and interacting  
  • Dating or attempting to find love
  • Entering a room in which people are already seated
  • Returning items to a store 
  • Eating in front of others in restaurants
  • Using a public bathroom



Self-help probably will not cure your social anxiety disorder, but it may reduce it and you might find it a useful first step before trying other treatments. Obviously you want to overcome social anxiety as quickly as possible.  You should try not to think too much about how others see you – pay attention to other people instead and remember that your anxiety symptoms are not as obvious as you might think. You should also start to do activities that you’d normally avoid – this can be tough at first, so being around somebody you feel comfortable with whilst starting these activities will help. You should try to understand more about your anxiety – think about what goes through your mind and how you behave in certain social situations to help you get a clearer idea of the problems you want to tackle! 

People with social phobia may rely on drugs and alcohol to cope with anxiety triggered by social interaction. Left untreated, social phobia can lead to other high-risk behaviours, including:

  • daily alcohol, smoking and drug abuse 
  • loneliness with nobody to talk or turn too 
  • thoughts of suicide, and willing to give up


Cognitive behavioural therapy – This therapy helps you learn how to control anxiety through relaxation and breathing, and how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – This type of medication is often the first type of drug tried for persistent symptoms of social anxiety. The serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) venlafaxine (Effexor XR) also may be an option for social anxiety disorder.

How To Treat Social Anxiety

It’s a good idea to see a GP if you think you have strong social anxiety, especially if it’s having a big impact on your life and causing the issues listed above. There are several types of antianxiety medications and treatment. Although Treatment results differ from person to person. Some people only need one type of treatment. However, others may require more than one. Your healthcare provider may also refer you to a mental health provider for treatment. Your doctor will want to determine whether other conditions may be causing your anxiety or if you have social anxiety disorder along with another physical or mental health disorder.

  • Your doctor may determine a diagnosis based on:
  • Physical exam to help assess whether any medical condition or medication may trigger symptoms of anxiety
    Discussion of your symptoms, how often they occur and in what situations
  • Review of a list of situations to see if they make you anxious
  • Self-report questionnaires about symptoms of social anxiety

Talk groups and social skill development classes can help you to feel more relaxed and confident in the company of people you don’t know direcltly.

By teaching some of the simple social skills that we tend to take for granted – like how to start a conversation with a stranger. You can practice with other people and do what is called ‘feedback’ – people watch themselves practising on video to get an idea of what they are doing and how they appear to other people.


Who to contact to help deal with depression and anxiety

There are several charities, support groups and online forums for people with social anxiety  and other anxiety disorders that can help provide therapy for social anxiety

There will also be a large amount of local support groups for you to talk too, don’t be afraid to find them!

Social anxiety can be solved easily with the right person, help and good with treatment. Therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication can help many people cope with their anxiety and function in social situations. Remember Social phobia doesn’t have to control your life. Although it may take weeks or months, psychotherapy and/or medication can help you begin to feel calmer and more confident in social situations, helping you break away from your anxiety and general worries!

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