Do you experience fear and discomfort in social situations, even with friends and family?
Are you constantly worried about being judged or embarrassed in public?
Do you avoid social situations to prevent these kinds of feelings?
If any of these feelings resonate with you, you may be wondering – do I have social anxiety?
Social anxiety is a common mental health condition affecting about 7.1% of adults in the last year. It is characterized by excessive fear and discomfort in social situations, leading to avoidance or extreme distress.
The severity of symptoms ranges from mild to debilitating. How you experience social anxiety is highly individual, so understanding how it uniquely affects you will be imperative to creating the right treatment plan for your symptoms.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the causes and symptoms of social anxiety, discuss the deepest fears of those with social anxiety, treatment options, and a 10-question self-assessment to gauge how much your symptoms are affecting you.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that involves an intense fear of social situations. This fear can be triggered by a variety of situations such as public speaking, meeting new people, or even everyday interactions. You may often have a strong desire to avoid these situations or endure them with intense distress if you suffer from social anxiety.
What Causes Social Anxiety?
The exact cause of social anxiety is not fully understood. It is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and brain chemistry factors. Some research suggests that if you have social anxiety, you may have an overactive amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for processing fear) which can lead to an exaggerated fear response in social situations.
Symptoms of social anxiety can include:
- Intense fear and anxiety in social situations
- Physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, or blushing in social settings
- Avoidance of social situations or extreme distress when faced with them
- Feeling self-conscious and worrying about being judged or embarrassed
- Difficulty speaking or making eye contact with others
- Fear of being the center of attention
Whether you experience one or all of these symptoms, it is important to be aware of your symptoms and communicate them to your counselor. Then, your counselor can work with you on each of your symptoms to improve your social skills and ease your fears over time.
Social Anxiety Fears
You may have different fears that contribute to your discomfort in social situations if you suffer from social anxiety. These fears are the root of why interacting with others may be difficult or painful for you.
The top 5 social anxiety fears are:
- Fear of judgment or criticism: This fear is common if you worry about being negatively evaluated by others. You may constantly second-guess your actions and words, fearing that you will be perceived as awkward or unlikeable.
- Fear of rejection: You may often have a strong fear of being rejected or not fitting in with others. This can lead to avoiding social situations altogether or feeling isolated and lonely.
- Fear of embarrassment: The thought of embarrassing yourself in front of others can be extremely distressing. You may have a constant fear of making mistakes, saying the wrong thing, or having your flaws exposed.
- Fear of being the center of attention: You may dread being the focus of attention in social situations. This can cause you to avoid events or activities where you may be put in the spotlight.
- Fear of intimacy: Social anxiety can also make it difficult for you to form close relationships. This fear has to do with being afraid to open up and being vulnerable with others. Avoiding social situations because of this fear may lead to feeing isolated and disconnected with others.
These fears may seem irrational to others, and for those with social anxiety, they can feel overwhelming and debilitating. Next, let’s explore the treatment options for this condition.
Treatment Options for Social Anxiety
If you suspect that you have social anxiety, it is important to seek support from a mental health professional to understand your treatment options and get a personalized plan to help you cope with your symptoms better.
The two main treatments for social anxiety are:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT has been found to be effective in treating social anxiety by identifying and challenging negative thoughts and behaviors. If you can learn to reframe your thoughts, you may be able to improve your ability to interact with others calmly and without anxiety.
Medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can also be used to manage symptoms of social anxiety. Talk with your counselor about medication options that may work for you.
Typically, symptoms are reduced more often when both CBT and medication are used together. In addition to these two treatment options, there are some strategies you can build on at home to further reduce stress and anxiety.
Strategies to help manage social anxiety include:
- Practicing relaxation techniques: These techniques may include mindfulness meditation, taking a warm bath, or deep breathing exercises to relax your body.
- Building a support network: Having the support of people you care about and connecting with them regularly one-on-one or in a small group can drastically improve overall anxiety and social discomfort. Try choosing the location so you can ensure you will be comfortable during social time.
- Gradually facing feared situations: Discuss with your counselor what situations make you uncomfortable enough to avoid. From there, your counselor can create a plan to safely and slowly expose yourself to those fears or discomforts. When exposing yourself to your fears in a slow and controlled manner, you lessen the risk that you will feel emotionally overwhelmed. This will ensure progress over time.
Everyone’s journey with social anxiety is different and finding the right treatment approach may take some time. You don’t have to go from 0% to 100% overnight. Make baby step changes that will amount to large strides later on.
Do I Have Social Anxiety? – A 10 Question Quiz for Self-Diagnosis
If you are unsure whether you have social anxiety, here is a simple quiz to help you gauge how deeply this disorder may be affecting you. Keep in mind that this quiz is not meant to replace a professional diagnosis.
- Do you experience intense fear and anxiety in social situations?
- Do you avoid social interactions or endure them with extreme distress?
- Do you worry excessively about being judged or rejected by others?
- Do you often feel self-conscious and struggle with low self-esteem?
- Is it difficult for you to make eye contact or speak in front of others?
- Do social situations trigger physical symptoms such as sweating or shaking?
- Do you have a fear of being the center of attention?
- Do you find it challenging to make friends or maintain relationships?
- Do you often cancel plans or avoid social events due to feelings of anxiety?
- Do you feel like your social anxiety is negatively impacting your daily life?
Bonus Question: Have these symptoms been present for at least six months?
If you said “yes” to one or more of the questions above, it is important to seek support from a mental health professional.
Have you ever had a stressful social interaction and wondered, “Do I have social anxiety?” It can be confusing and daunting to know what is causing your symptoms and negatively affecting your quality of life, so asking yourself questions is a great place to start on the path to understanding the root cause of your issue.
If you are experiencing symptoms know that you aren’t alone. With social anxiety being a common issue, it is treatable with the use of CBT, medication, or both treatment options together.
If you feel like you may have social anxiety or any other mental health concerns, do not hesitate to reach out for professional support. Call us at (833)-274-heal or schedule an appointment to connect with a caring counselor who can help you understand your symptoms and create a plan for your unique obstacles.
Remember, your mental health matters and you deserve to live a life free from excessive fear and anxiety.