This could be for you if you:
- You are terrified of social situations
- You realise your fear is not proportionate to the situation
- You don't like feeling you are being watched, or being the centre of attention
- You avoid socialising because of the discomfort it causes
What is social anxiety disorder?
Feeling uncomfortable in social situations is something that most people deal with at some point, and it’s totally normal. For some people, however, social contact can be a massive source of anxiety to the point where it's negatively affecting their day-to-day life. This is called social anxiety disorder, or social phobia.
People with social phobias have an intense fear of being judged or embarrassed in social situations, so much so that they often avoid the company of other people. This can be despite the fact that it means missing out on enjoyable aspects of socialising, like spending time with friends and meeting people.
What causes social anxiety disorder?
Social phobias often first arise when shy or under-confident kids are beginning adolescence. While some level of awkwardness is to be expected at this age, when it starts to become problematic and interfere with their lives it may be a social anxiety disorder. It can be caused by a history of shyness in social or family situations, genetics and negative thought patterns that reinforce the social disorder.
For people with social anxiety disorder, almost anything that involves social interaction or attention can be intensely uncomfortable. This can include:
- You don't like being the centre of attention
- Making small talk
- Meeting people of high status/authority figures
- Being watched while doing something
- Eating and drinking in public
- Public speaking
What are the signs of social anxiety disorder?
People with a social phobia can experience the following physical symptoms in social situations:
- Racing heartbeat
- Tense or twitching muscles
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Butterflies in the stomach or nausea
Mental signs that someone could have social issues are:
- Feeling an intense pressure to “get it right” socially
- Feeling self-conscious around others, especially strangers
- Avoiding socialising altogether as a response to these fears, which can compound the pressure and fear of failure
Managing social anxiety disorder
Often people with social anxiety disorder know their fears are irrational, but can't control them. However, a combination of, counselling, and systematic desensitisation (which involves learning relaxation techniques and gradually learning to manage anxiety that’s triggered by fearful events) and sometimes medication can help them lessen and overcome these fears.