Signs of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a common. People often confuse shyness or awkwardness with social anxiety, however social anxiety is not shyness. People who are shy may feel uneasy around people, but they don’t experience anxiety someone with social anxiety faces. Additionally, people who are shy don’t actively try to avoid social situations that someone who has social anxiety avoids.
Sometimes people who have social anxiety might not be shy. They feel completely at ease most of the time, but certain situations can give them intense anxiety. Common day-to-day situations that people with social anxiety have trouble with are:
- Attending social functions such as parties or events
- Eating with other people
- Attending school or going to work
- Making prolonged eye contact
- Making small talk with strangers
- Using public restrooms
- Beginning conversations
- Being watched while doing something
- Speaking in a meeting
- Talking on the phone
- Public speaking
A few of these situations may or may not be a problem for you. You might be perfectly fine with going to work, but the thought of speaking in public might cause you to excessively panic. You might be alright with talking on the phone, but the thought of someone watching you while you do something causes anxiety.
Socially anxious people all have various reasons for avoiding certain situations, or dreading events, but generally it’s a fear of:
- Being embarrassed
- Fear that you will humiliate yourself
- Feeling judged by others
- Fear that people will notice your nervousness
Physical symptoms of social anxiety include muscle tension, shakiness, a queasy stomach, rapid heartbeat, feeling out of breath, profuse sweating, lightheadedness, and “out of body” sensations. You might start having anxious symptoms weeks or days prior to an event, and then afterwards you might excessively think about how you acted at the event.
Social anxiety can make you want to avoid nerve-wracking situations, but they can do more harm than good. Avoiding situations may temporarily relieve your social anxiety short term, but it stops you from being comfortable in social situations. The longer you avoid a situation, the thought of it becomes even more frightening.
To overcome social anxiety, start with a small situation that you can handle, and work your way to situations that are more challenging. If you fear talking on the phone, try talking to someone on the phone for 30 seconds. Once you’re comfortable with that, talk with the person for one minute. Building confidence in your capabilities is key to overcoming social anxiety.
Have a lot of patience. Recovering from social anxiety doesn’t happen instantly and it’s very easy to become frustrated and feel angry with yourself if you’re not making rapid progress. However, having patience with yourself can make you have realistic thoughts about the situations you’re facing and can help speed up your recovery from social anxiety.
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