Social Anxiety

Do I have Social Anxiety?

Social phobia disorder, also known as social anxiety, is an anxiety disorder that makes you feel very uncomfortable in social situations or group settings (a classroom or workspace, party, or other environments where you have to talk to others). Social anxiety can make you avoid places or settings where you might have to interact with others. It is the most common anxiety disorder out there and it is very treatable.

Overcoming Shyness

Shyness is similar to social anxiety disorder because shyness makes you feel uncomfortable or awkward in front of others. But social anxiety disorder is more extreme than shyness. It prevents you from doing things you might enjoy. Social anxiety disorder is usually accompanied by physical symptoms.

Anxiety Causes

No one knows for sure why some people suffer from social phobia and others don’t. Some psychologists believe that it is related to genetics. That is, if someone in your family has social phobia, you are probably more likely to experience it, too. It’s also believed that people who are naturally more negative in their outlook (seeing the glass half-empty rather than half-full) are more likely to experience social phobia.

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Signs of Social Anxiety

People who have social phobia disorder worry that others will judge them. They hold back in social settings for fear that they will be made fun of or ridiculed. They are afraid of embarrassing themselves in front of others.

Here are some signs of social phobia:

  • Racing heart, or a “skipping” heartbeat
  • Trembling
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Sinking feeling inside
  • Feeling like you need to escape
  • Twitching or tense muscles
  • Blushing
  • Dizziness

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As a way of dealing with these feelings, you might avoid social situations altogether. Other behaviors that are common in people who have social anxiety are trying extra hard in school or work, being terrified of making a mistake, and over-thinking social situations in which you feel you didn’t “perform” well.

Here are some situations that might trigger social phobia disorder:

  • Meeting new people
  • Being teased by others
  • Being watched by others
  • Eating in front of others
  • Speaking up in class, at work, or in a group
  • Using the phone
  • Talking to teachers or people who have authority (for example, the principal, a boss, or a police officer)

Ways to deal with Social Anxiety 

Social phobia disorder is very treatable. You don’t have to put up with this forever.

Here are some tips that might help you:

  • Read up. Research information on social phobia and ways you can manage it.
  • Make a list. What are the “triggers” that heighten your social anxiety? Write them down.
  • Worst case scenario. Think about what would happen if the fear of embarrassing yourself came true. How bad would that be? What might happen as a result?
  • Take a step back. Now think about how you would feel if you witnessed someone else making the same “mistake” as you. Would you think about it for the rest of the day? Probably not. Remind yourself of this scenario when you’re feeling anxious. Chances are, the embarrassment that feels tragic to you will hardly get noticed by others.
  • Give yourself credit. If you do something that makes you nervous or anxious, congratulate yourself on trying. You don’t have to be perfect, but making the effort to conquer your fears is very brave and important to recognize.
  • Take care of yourself. Get enough rest, exercise, and eat well.
  • Talk about it. Speak to a counsellor, talk to your doctor, or someone with experience. Talking about it gives you a chance to work on your phobia with someone else, rather than taking it on by yourself.

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