Is It Normal That I Have No Social Life?
By Sarah Fader
Updated January 21, 2019
Reviewer April Brewer , DBH, LPC
You notice that everyone else is going out with their friends on the weekends except you. In fact, you never seem to go anywhere and do not really have any close friends. You have acquaintances and people you talk to at work but nobody that you actually go places with. The truth is, you have no social life at all and you do not even know why. This could be a sign that you may have symptoms of social anxiety disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Occasionally feeling uncomfortable in social situations is not uncommon. However, for those who struggle with social anxiety disorder, the stress of such situations is more prevalent to where it could impact daily routine activities. People who have social anxiety disorder may be afraid of interacting, of being rejected, or of being negatively judged or evaluated by others. They may feel so self-conscious and uncomfortable that they avoid interactions whenever possible by avoiding meeting new people, avoid meeting new people, avoid dating or solely engaging in online dating (e.g. avoiding meeting the person of interest in person), attending school, avoid asking questions in class, avoid eating in front of other people, avoid joining fitness centers/gym memberships, avoid using public restrooms, avoid communicating with a cashier, doing most of their shopping online, going grocery shopping in the early mornings or late nights, decline invitations on outings with family, friends, and colleagues, decline visitors into their home, not return a friendly greeting (e.g. Hello, how are you today?) to name some examples. In addition, some individuals are impacted in very important scenarios such as being on a job interview, asking for help, or even seeking medical attention.
Approximately 15 million people in the United States have social anxiety disorder. Although people may have different experiences, some common signs and/or symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
- Avoiding places where there are people
- Extremely scared that people will judge you
- Fear that a person or group of people with rejecting you
- Self-conscious around other people (e.g. Do I look okay? Will I fit in?)
- Scared to be with anyone
- Speak with an overly soft voice
- Still posture, avoiding eye contact in passing or speaking with others
- Feeling sick or nauseous if others come around you
- Blushing, sweating, shaking
- Rapid heart rate
- Mind going blank when you are asked a question
- Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder may result from a number of factors. Previous negative experiences such as being in an embarrassing situation or experiencing bullying or teasing may place one at greater risk. Shy children or adolescents may be more likely to experience social anxiety as adults. There is also research that suggests it may be most influenced by biological factors due to several parts of the brain involved with fear and anxiety and learned behaviors from other family members that may reside in the home. These family dynamics could lead to underdeveloped social skills, to where a person may feel discouraged after talking with people, have cycling negative thoughts, which may create worry discouraging from interacting with people again in the future. Researchers are also conducting ongoing studies to determine how stress and environmental factors may impact the development of social anxiety.
You Can Get Help
If you think you may experience social anxiety symptoms, it is often a common practice to rule out any potential underlying medical conditions by a medical provider to assess medical health history to ensure that an unrelated medical issue is not the cause of your symptoms. Your medical provider may then refer you to a mental health specialist (e.g. Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker, or Professional Counselor). Mental health specialist will then, further evaluate your history of presenting symptoms to determine if a diagnosis, if any is applicable.
Social anxiety is often treated with psychotherapy, support groups, and/or medication management. Psychotherapy, also known as "Talk Therapy" has been a common treatment for social anxiety disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy, has been shown to be effective in treating social anxiety disorder. Focusing on the relationship between thoughts, feelings and actions is an important aspect of CBT. One of the primary focus areas and goals of therapy is changing the underlying beliefs associated with the social anxiety to include implementation of techniques in daily "real-time" situations to help reduce the anxiety and fear associated with various situations, settings, and/or people. In addition, CBT mental health specialist often assigns "homework" to help facilitate positive change and personal accountability.
Many people who experience symptoms of social anxiety disorder often find attending support groups beneficial. Attending support groups creates the opportunity for you to gain insights from other people who also experience social anxiety symptoms and how they attempt to manage and overcome their challenging social anxiety symptoms. This will help build rapport among group members to allow you to received open, honest, and unbiased feedback about your peer's perceptions and how your thoughts & fears may not be true, but distorted thoughts, that you could overcome.
Psychotherapy alone may help alleviate social anxiety symptoms for some people. However, others may consider the help of medication assistance, if symptoms appear to present with more intensity, mental health specialist could recommend psychotherapy combined with medication management to further alleviate social anxiety symptoms. The three medications that have been found to improve the symptoms of social anxiety are:
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Antidepressant medications
Anti-anxiety medications can be fast acting and most anxiety symptom relief is noted right away. However, anti-anxiety medication can become highly addictive, therefore medical providers normally prescribe these medications for brief periods of time. As with any medication consumption, it is important to note any negative side-effects.
Antidepressants are prescribed mainly to relieve depressive symptoms, however, have been found to relieve some symptoms of social anxiety. Unlike anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants may take several weeks to note any symptom relief to include monitoring of any adverse side-effects.
Beta-blocker medications help block some of the physical anxiety symptoms that present in the body, such as increased respirations, increased heart rate, profusely sweating, and/or shaking/trembling.
When engaging in treatment it is important to note that both patience and effort will be required to experience social anxiety symptom relief. In addition, preventative care to social anxiety is implementing a healthy lifestyle to include daily self-care behaviors such as getting sufficient sleep, engaging in exercise and/or physical activity, consuming a healthy nutritious diet, stress management techniques, setting realistic expectations for yourself, setting realistic goals for yourself, and having a positive support system of entrusting family and friends.
Your medical provider will help evaluate and determine the most suitable medication, dosage amount, and duration of medication management. A mental health specialist will help further determine if CBT or other psychotherapies are best suited for you. Again, most people with social anxiety disorder find most symptom relieved with combined therapy and medication management.
If you do not have a mental health therapist, an online therapist who has experience with CBT may be a good option for you. Social anxiety disorder can be challenging, but help is available and easily accessible. There is hope, you just have to take that first step.