Signs You May Have Social Anxiety–and How to Treat It

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woman wonders signs of social anxiety
Author Name: Lucas Cook
Date: Wednesday November 30, 2022

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It’s normal to feel nervous now and then. Everyone sweats a little during presentations and performance reviews, but it’s when these fears affect daily life that there is a major problem. Social anxiety sparks fear, indecisiveness and sickness throughout the lives of thousands of people across the world every day. Know that you are not alone and learn how to check for the signs of social anxiety today. 

The sooner you recognize the symptoms, the sooner you are on your way to a relaxed state of mind. 

Is Social Anxiety Just Shyness? 

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is not just shyness, though many people assume it to be. Shyness is a personality trait, while SAD is a mental health condition that often requires treatment. 

Social anxiety is a form of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD encourages feelings of dread and extreme fear around situations and events in daily life, often becoming incapacitating. Social anxiety has these same fears, though they are directed towards social interactions, performances, and being around people. 

Shyness, on the other hand, is a personality trait that is easily recognizable: quietness and little eye contact. This also arises only in certain situations, like public speaking or being at parties. Social anxiety is often a persistent mindset and not as easily recognized. Social pressures often force anxious people to hide their fears and present as outgoing or gregarious even if there is a twisting ball of nerves inside. 

What are Common Symptoms? 

Uncovering the signs of social anxiety early on can lead to better care. Unfortunately, SAD can worsen with time and a lack of treatment, so take some time to track your feelings and understand your relationship to these symptoms.

It is important to remember that these side effects can also vary for people depending on genetics, environment, age, or even culture. Children may show their anxieties through what we perceive as temper tantrums because they cannot express their emotions fully. Some cultures also value outspoken and influential speakers, so signs of social anxiety may be more difficult to identify. 

1. Emotional Symptoms

SAD presents in emotionally challenging ways that induce fear of certain situations or events. If these seem familiar to you, then you may want to consult your doctor:

  • Persistent and intense fear of humiliation, being judged or embarrassment 
  • Fear of interacting with strangers or friends and family
  • Over-analysis of flaws and interactions with others
  • Expecting the worst-case scenario in every conversation

2. Physical Symptoms

Physically, there are signs of social anxiety as well, such as blushing, sweating, nausea, racing heartbeat, lightheadedness and a blank mind. Be mindful of how your body reacts to certain triggers or stressful situations to start your treatment journey. 

3. Avoidance

Avoidance is one of the biggest symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Sometimes the fear is too great to enter the situation, and these are common spots where this occurs: 

  • Dates
  • Getting up or entering a room where everyone is seated
  • Birthday parties where you are the center of attention
  • Eating with or in front of others
  • Work or school functions, or daily life

What Causes Social Anxiety? 

If you identified with many of the above symptoms, you may be wondering how social anxiety disorder arises. Many people inherit anxiety from their families genetically, but it can also be caused by events in their lives. Bullying or moving to a new home or school can bring a variety of fears and develop into SAD. 

If left untreated, social anxiety disorder may go out of control, effectively running a person’s life. Fears of being humiliated morph into extremely low self-esteem, hypersensitivity and self-hatred. The ability to meet new people and maintain relationships may also be altered, leading to depression, isolation and even darker possibilities. About 20% of people with social anxiety abuse alcohol, and suicide is not an unknown reality for this group either.  

Although this is a serious mental health condition, there are steps to becoming a happier and healthier individual. 

Is Treatment Possible?

Let’s start with a diagnosis. Visit your primary health care physician, psychologist or psychiatrist and talk about your concerns. Using the DSM-5, a diagnostic tool for American psychiatric care, the health care provider will see if your experiences match the listed symptoms. 

If you are then diagnosed with SAD, you may be recommended for therapy or certain medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or goal-oriented therapy meets frequently to discuss improvements and challenges in your social journey. 

A common medication for social anxiety is an antidepressant, like SSRIs. These medications target and raise serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that makes us happy and fulfilled, but remember that SSRIs may take weeks to make a tangible difference in mood or anxiety. 

In the meantime, you can start journaling or meditating to fully understand your feelings and try to calm your nerves. Also, take time to give yourself grace. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and no one can overcome a medical disorder in a matter of days either. Remember your wins, celebrate yourself and stay kind and patient with your body. 

Combining these self-care thoughts with medical care can lead you on the road to recovery and a more engaging and fulfilling life. 

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