Do you worry so much about others negatively judging you that you have difficulty getting through the day?
Do you struggle with feeling especially self-conscious meeting new people, making presentations at work, or other public activities?
Do you feel overwhelmed by worry about social situations well in advance?
Does wearing a mask and having fewer societal obligations offered some relief from the daily strain of interacting and engaging with others?
Does shame or embarrassment hold you back from reaching out for answers?
If you answered “yes” to the questions above, you may be experiencing social anxiety. Social anxiety is a real condition. It’s not just “normal anxiety,” but your brain’s threat detection system operating in overdrive. It is important to know that you are not alone in your experience. Perhaps you have never really put a name to your social difficulties.
Your struggle deserves attention and support. The more you understand it, the closer you will come to empowerment and recovery.
Common Social Anxiety Signs and Symptoms
Social Anxiety Disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder in which a person feels symptoms of anxiety or fear in situations where they may be scrutinized, evaluated or judged by others. It manifests in a broad range of physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. These include, but are not limited to the following:
Physical Indicators of Social Anxiety
- Dry mouth
- Racing pulse
- Choking sensation
- Extreme sweating
- Trembling or jumpiness
- Dizziness or fear of fainting
- Cold and/or clammy hands
- Nausea or digestive problems
- Shaky speech or loss of voice
- Heart palpitations or chest tightness
- Difficulty making eye contact or visually focusing
Emotional and Psychological Signs of Social Anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling confused
- Worried about what others may think of you
- Overwhelmed or frozen by fear of social situations beforehand
- Fear of doing or saying something embarrassing
- The anxiety is disrupting your daily functioning
- Small mistakes make you want to leave the social situation altogether
- Your anxiety is noticeable to others
- You don’t share your thoughts or opinions because of the fear of judgement from others
- Your self-esteem depends on external validation
- You are hard on yourself after socializing with others
A Perfect Storm of Isolation
These fears can be overpowering, leaving those suffering from social anxiety disorder desperate to avoid people and situations that might trigger painfully self-conscious thoughts and feelings. It may feel like relief in the moment to avoid these triggers, but avoidance reinforces social anxiety over time.
It’s not unusual for many people with social anxiety to have difficulty being assertive. If you struggle with social anxiety, you may find criticism (real or perceived) intolerable. Often, without help, your social skills decline as your worries expand. Anxiety about how you might behave, the impression you might leave, and more can create an unproductive cycle of fear, avoidance, and shame. Unaddressed, a social anxiety disorder can lead to increased isolation, damaging self-talk and low self-esteem, and even impair functioning in your personal and professional life.
Social anxiety disorder often occurs together with other mental health concerns such as depression, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, agoraphobia, and substance dependence. Severe social anxiety can affect the development of meaningful relationships and emotional growth. The good news is that there are a number of evidence-based treatments for social anxiety.
How Therapy Can Help You Manage Your Social Anxiety
If this reflects your experience, you may be wondering how to find some relief. You can start by:
- Telling those close to you how you are feeling and asking for help in social situations
- Practicing connecting with others in authentic ways in scenarios that feel safe
- Learning stress management skills like deep breathing and meditation
- Joining a social anxiety support group
Therapy provides helpful guidance for deeper and more sustainable change. Your therapist can help you:
- Develop confidence and self-compassion
- Learn mindfulness and other coping skills you need to manage stressful situations
- Help you understand the roots of your anxiety
- Put your new confidence and skills into practice
- Reframe thoughts and beliefs underlying social anxiety
- Address other mental health concerns that may be getting in the way
All of this (and more) takes place in a non-judgmental environment. The confidential one-on-one setting of therapy can become a safe space for those who experience social anxiety.
Start Therapy to Reach Your Full Potential
Are you experiencing overwhelming social anxiety that is holding you back from reaching your full potential? Work with one of our therapists can help you overcome social anxiety, feel comfortable in social settings, and create meaningful connections. Anxiety treatment is a specialty at our practice. Begin therapy today by scheduling a free 15-minute phone consultation.