Social anxiety disorder is a common mental health condition that involves intense anxiety or fear of social situations. It is not just occasional nervousness or shyness, it is an anxiety disorder that can involve emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms and that can be very disruptive to a person’s life.
Here, we’ll explore 18 common signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder, as well as how to get help if this is something you’re experiencing.
Social Anxiety Disorder Signs And Symptoms
Understanding the common signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder may allow more people to become familiar with SAD and recognize when they might consider seeking treatment.
Below, we’ll outline 18 common signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder broken into three categories: emotional, physical, and behavioral. If you have social anxiety disorder, you may not have all of these signs or symptoms, but you may recognize several of them.
Emotional Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety
The following emotional signs and symptoms are common in individuals with social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder may bring an intense fear that others may judge you in social situations. You may also have a fear that others will notice you are anxious and reject you because of it. In this way, the social anxiety itself may cause additional fear. Because you are already anxious, you may be aware of the physical symptoms that you fear will be embarrassing, such as sweating or blushing.
Worry is another primary symptom of social anxiety. You may have worries that you might do something to embarrass yourself. People with social anxiety frequently have worries about the worst thing that could happen that would cause embarrassment or humiliation. This worry can be debilitating, keeping you from being able to take any action in a social situation for fear that it will lead to embarrassment in some way.
People with social anxiety often experience anxiety before a social event or situation. You may spend hours or even days before a social event or situation thinking about your fears and all of the ways that things could go wrong.
In addition to thinking about the social situation negatively beforehand, you may also ruminate on the social situation after it is over. You may find yourself going over the social situation over and over again in your mind, thinking of all the things you could have done differently and trying to figure out if you did anything to embarrass yourself.
Expecting the Worst
Another common sign of social anxiety is expecting the worst. When you have social anxiety, you may assume that the worst is going to happen. You assume you will be rejected, or you assume that you will do or say something to embarrass yourself.
Physical Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety
There are also a range of physical signs and symptoms of social anxiety that you may notice; these are usually most prevalent when you are in social situations that cause anxiety. You may not have all of these signs or symptoms, but some of them may be familiar to you:
Blushing is a common sign of social anxiety. As you become anxious and fear embarrassment, you may blush. For many people, this also adds to the social anxiety, as they become very self-conscious of the blushing.
Fast Heart Rate
When you are anxious, your heart rate may also increase. This can be due to the mind telling the body that you are in a fight-or-flight response. The increased heart rate might make you feel as though your heart is pounding in your chest.
It can also be common for people who are extremely anxious in social situations to tremble. You may have trembling hands, or you may feel as though you are shaking all over. Again, this can make you even more self-conscious, simply making the social anxiety that much worse.
Many people also sweat when they are anxious. Sweating in a social situation can make you even more self-conscious and make your social anxiety even worse.
Many people also feel nauseous when they are anxious. As your body tenses and becomes stressed from the social anxiety, your body produces additional cortisol, which can affect your digestion and might result in nausea.
Shortness of Breath
If you get severe social anxiety, you may find that you are short of breath. You may feel that it is difficult to breathe, or you may find yourself breathing rapidly. If you experience this physical symptom of social anxiety, try to make a conscious effort to slow and control your breathing.
Dizziness or Lightheadedness
Dizziness or lightheadedness can also occur when you are in social situations if you have social anxiety. If this happens to you, try to sit down until you start to feel steady again, before trying to continue.
As your mind tells your body that you are in a fight-or-flight situation, your body may tense up. This can cause muscle tension, particularly in the shoulders and neck. When you have muscle tension, it can make you feel very uncomfortable or even cause pain, which can be further distracting and add to your anxiety.
Behavioral Signs Of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by experiencing overwhelming anxiety in social situations and can often result in people avoiding these situations entirely, along with other behavioral signs and symptoms, detailed below:
There are many things that you may avoid because of your social anxiety. You may avoid attending certain events, doing certain activities, or speaking to people because you are afraid that it will somehow lead to embarrassment. You may avoid situations in which you become the center of attention.
Difficulty Interacting With Strangers
People with social anxiety disorder often find it difficult to interact with strangers. When a stranger tries to talk to them, they may feel intense fear and seek out a quick escape. They may have difficulty dealing with cashiers, librarians, taxi drivers, and other strangers that people run into during daily activities.
Uncomfortable Attending Parties
People with social anxiety disorder often find it difficult to attend parties or other social gatherings. Even when those social gatherings are filled with people they know, such as friends and family, they may feel unable to attend. The anxiety they feel before and during the event may be more than they can bear, and they may choose to avoid the situation altogether or leave very quickly.
Difficulty Starting Conversations
Another thing that people with a social anxiety disorder may find hard to do is start conversations. They may feel comfortable once engaging in a conversation with someone they know well, but they may avoid initiating conversations.
Difficulty With Dating
Another challenge people with social anxiety disorder may face involves dating. Many people with social anxiety may find that their anxiety makes it difficult to meet and talk to new people, making dating tough.
Help With Social Anxiety Disorder
If you experience fear and anxiety in social situations or recognize some of the symptoms above, you may consider contacting a therapist for support, as therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment option for anxiety.
Individuals with social anxiety disorder may find some of the aspects of seeking help to be anxiety-inducing, such as going to a new place, interacting with strangers, and meeting with a new person face-to-face. In these cases, online therapy can be a great option, because you can meet with your therapist wherever you have an internet connection, including the comfort of your own home.
Plus, research has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for social anxiety disorder. For instance, one such research study found that an online cognitive therapy program for social anxiety disorder “significantly reduced social anxiety symptoms.”
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