Social Anxiety Disorder: What It Is And What To Do?

Published on October 12th, 2018

Updated on January 2nd, 2024

Social Anxiety Disorder: What It Is And What To Do?

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is a disorder that makes a person feel anxious in social situations. People with social anxiety feel awkward and uncomfortable when socializing with others. This causes them to shut down. They may also act in a way that seems strange or uncharacteristic.

There are many situations that can cause a person with social anxiety to feel anxious. The anxiety can sometimes cause panic attacks or emotional outbursts. It can also prevent a person from making friends or dating. Life with social anxiety can be lonely, but there are ways to manage the condition.

What Does Social Anxiety Feel Like?

Like all anxiety disorders, social anxiety causes feelings like nervousness, fear, and apprehension. These feelings can cause discomfort for the affected person. A person with social anxiety may feel muted or unable to be their authentic selves around others. This causes a lot of frustration and negatively impacts their sense of self-esteem.

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Social anxiety can cause symptoms that are triggered by having to be social with others. These symptoms are uncomfortable and can be difficult to manage without healthy coping skills.

People with social anxiety may share similar symptoms but have different triggers. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and are based on the individual’s triggers.

Social anxiety causes behavioral, mental, and emotional symptoms. Such symptoms include:

A person with social anxiety disorder may show their discomfort through different behaviors. Such behaviors include:

What Causes Social Anxiety?

People with social anxiety tend to lack confidence in themselves. They tend to have a poor self-image and may feel like they cannot break through their anxiety to show their true selves. People with social anxiety fear judgment from others. They may also suffer from other mental health disorders.

A person with social anxiety may or may not have a triggering event that causes the anxiety. Some events that can cause a person to be at risk of developing social anxiety include:

Living With Social Anxiety Disorder

People with social anxiety struggle in different types of social settings. It can be a challenge to feel comfortable when around others.

A person with social anxiety will feel like there is a spotlight on them. They will be uncomfortable with themselves and the people around them.

People with social anxiety struggle at varying degrees. What may be challenging for one person may not be for another person.

Example: Someone may be able to perform but fear having unrehearsed conversations with acquaintances. A person may also be outgoing with close friends but shut down when around people that they are not close with.

Situations that may be uncomfortable for people with social anxiety disorder include:

The challenges that come with social anxiety can cause difficulty with making friends. People with social anxiety often feel isolated from others. They may also struggle to establish relationships and feel like they belong.

Social Anxiety Disorder

What To Do If You Have Social Anxiety

If you feel you may have social anxiety, the first step to feeling better is meeting with a mental health professional. Professional counseling for social anxiety helps people learn how to cope with their triggers.

A person with social anxiety will likely need individual counseling. Many also participate in group therapy.

A form of therapy for social anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people recognize their errors in thinking. It also helps those who suffer from social anxiety by identifying anxious thoughts.

People with social anxiety tend to make incorrect assumptions about social situations, like:

With CBT, the affected person learns how to correct these errors in thinking. They learn how to use evidence about a situation that disproves their negative talk.

People in therapy also learn that their negative thoughts stem from their anxiety and not the people around them. This can help the affected person learn how to cope with their fear of embarrassment or rejection.

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