It is normal to feel slightly anxious or nervous when we know we are going to be judged on our abilities or character as a person. For example, you might feel nervous meeting your future in-laws for the first time, or if you have to speak in front of a crowd, or go on a first date. This type of anxiety is healthy, as it prepares you to focus on doing your best. However, some people experience increased anxiety in a number of social situations, even in everyday ordinary social interactions. This is called Social Anxiety or Social Phobia.

What are the signs and symptoms of Social Anxiety?

  • Fear of being judged or criticised by others. This leads to self-doubt when you are in social situations and afterwards. You might worry that you said something to offend the other person, or that you sound stupid or boring.
  • Feeling anxious in the lead-up or during social situations (including performance-based situations). For example, you might notice you get sweaty palms, flushed around the face and neck, your heart might race and your hands might shake.
  • Sensitivity to feeling judged by others. You might pick up on subtle tones or gestures in social situations and immediately assume they relate to you. For example, you may assume if someone was quiet that they did not like you or were annoyed by something you said.

How does Social Anxiety affect me?

  • Avoiding social situations. People with social anxiety may cancel plans or avoid scheduling them all together. It is also common to create safety precautions in social situations. For example, you might invite your friend to a party when you do not know many people, or you may make an excuse as to why you need to leave early.
  • Discomfort being yourself. You find it difficult to relax and talk openly and honestly about your life or opinions. Some people find they feel defensive and withdraw socially as a way of coping. Whereas others may find they go into ‘over-drive’ to try and be friendly and entertaining.
  • Your social confidence can affect your relationship quality. For example, you may avoid being assertive about your needs, leaving yourself feeling frustrated and let down by others. You may also find you need to seek excessive reassurance from friends and partners.
  • Social anxiety can impact on your career and study goals. You may avoid taking career risks – for example, you might fear being humiliated in an interview or presentation, causing you to avoid it all together. You may be overpowered by dominant people in the workplace, who perceive you as having low social confidence and take advantage of your difficulty to speak up.

How can I treat my Social Anxiety?

There are several well-researched treatments that are effective in treating Social Anxiety, including: Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Self-Help, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and medication.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help?

We are experienced and trained in treating psychological difficulties like Social Anxiety. If you are experiencing Social Anxiety and would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.

FAQs for Social Anxiety

What is Social Anxiety?

More than regular nervousness and shyness, social anxiety describes the experience of intense fear of social situations, to the point where it impacts your daily activities or relationships. Social anxiety symptoms vary significantly across individuals, but some of the most common include fear of interacting with others, being judged or embarrassing oneself in front of others, and worrying about others noticing your anxiety.

How do I overcome Social Anxiety?

There are several well-researched treatments that are effective in treating Social Anxiety, including but not limited to Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Exposure-based Therapies. Medication can also be helpful in treating social anxiety, especially when combined with talk therapy. While working on your social anxiety, although it can be hard, it is also important to keep showing up to as many of your social commitments as you can tolerate.

What causes Social Anxiety?

Someone may be more likely to develop social anxiety if they have a family history of anxiety (genetics), or have family members who behaved anxiously when they were growing up (modelling that there’s something to be afraid of). Social anxiety may also be triggered by environmental and social factors such as a history of bullying, temperament, or a combination of several of these factors.

Does isolation cause Social Anxiety?

Though it does not necessarily cause it, research suggests that long periods of isolation can lead to increased social anxiety symptoms. It is normal to find social situations more difficult after emerging from particularly solitary environments, such as COVID-19 lockdown. This is because like anything, without practice, it can be hard to maintain our skills – socialising is no different! Be gentle with yourself and ease back into social environments slow and steady. If you are finding this process overwhelming, it can be helpful to get support from a therapist with strategies and skills to help you cope.