Signs of Social Anxiety and How to Get Over Your Fear
Could your shyness actually be something more serious? Social anxiety is the third most common mental health issue in the United States, and about 15 million adults across the country suffer from the disorder in any given year. Social anxiety and shyness have many of the same symptoms, like feeling nervous around people and hesitating to speak up in groups, but social anxiety is much more severe, and it’s more likely to have an adverse effect on your life. These seven traits are among the most common signs of social anxiety. Do any of them sound like you?
You fear being judged negatively by others.
No one likes to be judged, but most people don’t let worries about negative judgment stop them from carrying out their everyday responsibilities. People with social anxiety, on the other hand, are excessively self-conscious about what others think of them, even in situations that wouldn’t cause other people to worry. Tasks as routine as going to the grocery store or speaking up in class can be intimidating for someone with social anxiety. If your fear of making mistakes or being humiliated in front of others limits your day-to-day activities, it could indicate that you have social anxiety.
You avoid events and activities when you don’t know what to expect.
For many socially anxious people, social occasions aren’t fun. An event can seem especially nerve-wracking when you’re not sure what to expect, such as when you’re meeting new people or going to an unfamiliar place. Many people with social anxiety avoid new situations entirely, missing out on interesting experiences along the way.
Meeting or talking to strangers makes you nervous.
Do you get tongue-tied at the thought of introducing yourself to a stranger? Many people with social anxiety have a hard time speaking to people they don’t know. This can lead to fewer friends, missed social opportunities, and underperformance at work.
You assume you’ll perform poorly in social situations.
People who feel anxious around others often assume the worst about their own social skills. Do you ever tell yourself that you’ll only embarrass yourself if you’ll try something new, or that you might as well not go somewhere because you’ll act awkward if you do? This kind of distorted view is rarely true, but it can sometimes become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You have physical symptoms of nervousness.
Social anxiety often comes with its own set of physiological symptoms, including the following:
- Shakiness or trembling
- Shaky voice
- Racing heart
- Excessive sweating
These symptoms can be caused by many things other than social anxiety, but if you have them in combination with any of the other indicators on this list, anxiety may be the cause.
You’re afraid other people will notice that you’re nervous.
A common fear that goes along with social anxiety is worrying that other people will notice how nervous you are in a social setting. This may be especially true if you have physical symptoms of anxiety, like trembling or blushing. The truth is that other people are less likely to notice than you might think, but the more self-conscious you are, the more likely you are to act in ways that will draw attention to it.
You criticize yourself after the fact.
For many people with social anxiety, the end of a social event isn’t a cue to breathe a sigh of relief. Instead, it’s an opportunity to replay interactions in their mind and criticize themselves for their own perceived awkwardness or failures. If you’re prone to beating yourself up after encounters that you feel didn’t go well, that’s not a healthy sign – it can lead to more anxiety down the line because you’re reinforcing the irrational idea that you perform poorly whenever you go out.
If you think you might have social anxiety, don’t give up on your social life just yet. Social anxiety is highly treatable, and many former sufferers go on to live anxiety-free lives. A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you get rid of negative thought patterns and establish positive ones instead, and exposure therapy, which trains you to gradually face your fears until they don’t scare you anymore, is generally very successful at treating social anxiety. Without treatment, though, social anxiety is usually progressive and can become debilitating. Don’t hesitate to seek help – the sooner you address your anxiety, the sooner you can begin living a life free of fear.
More Tools and Resources for Social Anxiety: