24 Common Signs Of Social Anxiety
Updated February 10, 2020
Reviewer Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
Social anxiety is much more common than many people believe it to be. Some people who are thought to be "shy" actually have a social anxiety disorder.People simply don't realize that they have a problem that can be easily addressed.
Thankfully, social anxiety is becoming more understood and acknowledged in both society and the psychological community. As people become more aware of the signs of social anxiety, people may seek treatment sooner and overcome their anxiety in social situations.
According to recent statistics, about nine percent of the American population suffers from social anxiety. About 50 percent of those people presented signs of social anxiety by age 11, and 80 percent presented signs by age 20. If you have severe social anxiety, you should seek treatment. Therapy and medication can be effective in treating social anxiety.
The first step is being able to recognize the signs of social anxiety. If you have any of these signs and symptoms or recognize them in your teenager, you should seek help right away. Both emotional and physical signs of social anxiety may be present.
Emotional Signs You Have Social Anxiety
Social anxiety comes with a variety of emotional signs and symptoms. While physical symptoms may not always be present, there are always emotional and behavioral signs you have social anxiety. You may not have all of these signs, but if you have any social anxiety, you will likely recognize several of these symptoms.
Fear is the primary symptom of anxiety. An unrealistic fear is the most common characterization of the anxiety of any type. Social anxiety may bring fear that others may judge you. You may also have a fear that others will notice you are anxious and reject you because of it.
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. In these situations, the fear you have is feeding upon itself, and you enter a vicious cycle of fear and worry.
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 unknown way.
There are many things that you may avoid doing in public or social situations because of your social anxiety. You may avoid doing things 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. You may even avoid going into the social situation at all just to avoid any potential embarrassment and keep from having to worry and feed your fears.
People with social anxiety often anticipate their anxiety before a social event or situation. You may spend hours or even days before a social event or situation thinking about your social anxiety and all of the ways that things could go wrong. Often this simply adds to your fears, giving you more to worry about and making the social situation that much more unbearable.
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 time spent in 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 just 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. You don't even give yourself a chance, you just automatically assume that it will be bad, which feeds into your anxiety even more.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety
There are also a lot of physical signs and symptoms of social anxiety that you may notice in the heat of the moment. These signs of social anxiety are usually prevalent when you are in social situations. 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, it increases your heart rate and your body temperature, which can cause you to blush and become red in the face. For many people, this simply adds to the social anxiety.
Fast Heart Rate
As mentioned, when you are anxious your heart rate will likely increase. This is 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 is 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 lend to making your social anxiety that much worse. If you know you are going to be in a social situation, you may find yourself putting on liberal amounts of deodorant and perfume or cologne.
Many people also feel nausea when they are anxious. As your body tenses and becomes stressed from the social anxiety, your body produces additional cortisol which leads to increased stomach acid.
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. It is important that if you experience this physical symptom of social anxiety that you make a conscious effort to slow and regulate your breathing to prevent you from hyperventilating.
Dizziness or Lightheadedness
Dizziness or lightheadedness can also occur when you are in social situations if you have social anxiety. Often the dizziness and lightheadedness are caused by the shortness of breath and rapid heart rate. However, you may feel lightheaded even without those symptoms.
Mind blanking is a little-understood symptom that can happen in some situations. In social anxiety, it is common for the mind to seem to go completely blank when faced with fears simply. This could make it extremely difficult to follow or participate in a conversation, which can further increase the anxiety.
As your mind tells your body that you are in a fight or flight situation, your body will 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.
Signs of Social Anxiety Disorder
Not everyone who has problems in social situations has social anxiety. There is a difference between having nerves because you are speaking in public or going on a date and having social anxiety. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by being unable to cope with certain situations and typically results in people avoiding these situations entirely.
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 usually freeze up and seek out a quick escape. They may have difficulty dealing with cashiers, librarians, taxi drivers, and other strangers that people run into every day during normal daily activities.
Uncomfortable Attending Parties
People with a social anxiety disorder oftenfind it difficult to attend parties or social gatherings of almost any kind. Even when those social gatherings are filled with people they know, such as friends and family, they may be unable to attend. The anxiety they feel before and during the event is simply more than they can bear, and they either escape quickly with a fumbled excuse or make an excuse not to go at all.
Difficulty Starting Conversations
Another thing that people with a social anxiety disorder find hard to do is start conversations. They may not be able to start conversations with anyone, even their friends, and family. They may be able to participate in a conversation easily enough if it is with someone they know well, but unlikely they will be the first to say something.
Difficulty with Dating
One of the biggest problems that people with social anxiety disorder face is dating. Many people with social anxiety feel lonely and would like to have some company. However, their anxiety keeps them from being able to meet and talk to new people, making dating tough.
Signs of Severe Social Anxiety
Some people have more severe anxiety than others. There are some signs of severe social anxiety that may be present that will keep you from living your life fully. People who have severe social anxiety may not be able to leave their home but rarely, and they may not be able to work or go to school.
Unable to Go to Work or School
Severe social anxiety in the most extreme cases can prevent you from going to work or school. You may become so afraid of social interactions that you cannot bear to interact with coworkers, customers, students or teachers. When social anxiety is this severe, you should seek help right away.
Difficulty with Eye Contact
People with severe social anxiety may find it difficult to make eye contact with the people they are talking to. They are so anxious that they will look anywhere but at the person they are talking to. This can lead to additional anxiety and fear of rejection.
Difficulty with Public Restrooms
Some people with severe social anxiety find using public restrooms difficult, limiting how long they can be away from home. Severe social anxiety may keep you from being able to use the public restroom because you are so worried about running into other people while in the room, or other people being able to hear you use the restroom.
Difficulty EnteringA Room
Many people with severe social anxiety are unable to enter a room full of people, particularly if those people are all seated. You may find yourself in the doorway of the room frozen and unable to move.
Difficulty Going to a Store
Some people with severe social anxiety are not able to do simple tasks such as going to the store and buying or returning something. If you have severe social anxiety, you may find that you are so anxious about talking to strangers that you cannot even talk to a cashier or customer service representative.
It is important that if any of these signs of social anxiety seem familiar to you that you contact a therapist right away. There are a lot of advances in different types of psychotherapy that can be used to treat social anxiety effectively. With therapy and time, you may find yourself able to be in social situations that up until now you avoided.