Social anxiety isn’t something to joke about. It can cause people to miss out on living a full life as they seek to avoid situations that make them feel anxious and uncomfortable.
Many people with social anxiety end up with some level of agoraphobia too. They are so busy trying to avoid people and the uncomfortable feeling, they realize one day that they haven’t been with other people for months. Some people don’t even realize they have social anxiety.
This topic affects me personally. I have suffered from many forms of anxiety including social anxiety for many years. It is an ongoing battle.
This is part one of a four-part series on social anxiety. I will put links here to the other parts as the posts are released.
Social anxiety can manifest in a variety of sneaky ways that the uninformed may view as a different problem. For example, some people with social anxiety are very chatty, interrupt a lot, and don’t seem to listen to others. They are off-putting to others due to this. But, the person is just wracked with anxiety and is just trying to calm down through the meaningless chatter.
Yet others are quiet, stick to themselves, and tend to observe gatherings from afar (that’s me!). They are aloof, and some people perceive that type of person as thinking they’re too good and as snooty or uppity. But, the person isn’t snooty at all. They just have social anxiety.
Another manifestation of social anxiety is moody, snappy, angry behavior. That type of person is viewed as someone you don’t want to know which just increases the person’s social anxiety problems.
Do You Have Social Anxiety?
One thing to remember is that having social anxiety doesn’t mean that you’re shy, or that you don’t like people. It just means that you feel anxious and uncomfortable when you need to be in social situations. You may feel butterflies, nausea, rapid pulse and heartbeat, and other signs that include just skipping social situations to start with so that you don’t feel bad. Let’s look at some signs of social anxiety.
You Worry Excessively
If you spend a lot of time worrying about and going over every possible scenario of what might happen, could happen, or has happened, then it is a distinct possibility that you have an anxiety If you’re supposed to be talking to someone but your mind is so scattered thinking about how you look, how they look, what they might say, what they’re thinking of you and so forth, the worrying can ruin any event.
You Have Trouble Sleeping
Many people with social anxiety have trouble falling asleep at night because they cannot stop worrying about social interactions that are upcoming or those that have passed. You might think about what you said wrong during your last social interaction repeatedly even though you cannot change it.
You Suffer from Irrational Fears
Many people with social anxiety make up all types of scenarios in their mind about events both future and past. They also suffer from many irrational fears such as being judged harshly by others (this causes a lot of fear before, during, and after social events).
You Suffer from Constant Muscle Tension
If you notice that every time you need to be involved in any type of social event that you end up with a sore neck, jaw, or a headache that is due to muscle tension. Anxiety can cause real physical problems for sufferers.
You Have Chronic Digestive Issues
Many people who have social anxiety think they have stomach issues. You can experience irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, and other tummy upsets due to social anxiety. If you often find yourself in pain or in the bathroom at parties, you may very well have a serious case of social anxiety.
You Have “Stage Fright”
This isn’t about nerves, this is about out and out stage fright where you cannot, no matter what you do, or who encourages you to get in front of people and talk. You will sweat, throw up, shake, and possibly even have a panic attack if you get on stage or think about getting on stage or in front of others.
You Are Hyper Aware of Yourself & Self-Conscious
If you spend a lot of time changing clothes before any event, second guess yourself as you get to the event, and worry about how much space you’re taking up, how you’re sitting, where your arms are, how you smile, talk, and look all the time, that is a big social anxiety sign.
You Suffer from Panic Attacks
If you’ve ever thought you were having a heart attack only to discover it’s a panic attack, or you experience shortness of breath when you must get involved with social activities then you have social anxiety. This can be scary, especially the first time it happens. I’ve been to urgent care more than once over this.
You Experience Flashbacks
If you’ve had trauma in your life in any way, you may re-experience the problem by having sudden memories that are very strong. Often, a person having a flashback feels as if they’re experiencing the trauma all over again. This is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it affects many people.
You Are a Perfectionist
Do you have trouble finishing things because you cannot ever get it right? Sometimes people call this being a perfectionist. But, it’s really a way to block yourself from ever finishing and doing things so that you don’t have to experience the fear associated with failure and being social.
You Experience Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors
Many people who have social anxiety also perform certain ritualistic behaviors to deal with their anxiety. For example, they may need to sit with a wall to their back. They may need to wear certain clothing, or only go to certain places to be social.
You’re Plagued with Self-Doubt
If you always second guess yourself and doubt yourself whether it’s how you look, how your voice sounds, what you said, what you’re going to do, it can be the result of social anxiety. Making decisions can be very difficult if not impossible for someone with social anxiety.
You Make Last Moment Excuses to Miss Social Events
Do you say yes to social events, then at the last-minute bow out? Do you make excuses, say you’re sick, or just find reasons not to go to the events? If you do this, that’s a sign of social anxiety.
You Avoid Eye Contact with Others
Many people with social anxiety never make eye contact with people that they don’t know. Because of this they are often loners and can’t seem to meet new friends as others don’t trust them since they won’t make eye contact.
You Do Things to Actively Avoid Contact with Others
If you wear earphones, look down all the time, and generally try not to have strangers talk to you or talk to them then you probably have some form of social anxiety.
You Experience Physical Signs When Approached
Do you find yourself, shaking, sweating, or having other physical signs of discomfort when strangers or even people you know a little bit approach you? That’s a sure sign of social anxiety.
You Avoid Making Appointments
Many people with social anxiety tend to not even like talking on the phone so they don’t make appointments and take care of themselves because they can’t do it. Or, like me, you get someone else to call for you.
What Can You Do?
You don’t have to experience every single sign and symptom to have social anxiety. Plus, social anxiety can be mild, or it can be debilitating. Either way, it can be controlled if you know you have it and get professional help overcoming it.
If you think that you could have social anxiety, there is an online test that can help. However, it is usually best if you seek professional help through a trained therapist if you think you have social anxiety and it’s interfering with your daily life.
In the meantime take the test from the Social Anxiety Institute, and get more information about yourself and social anxiety.
Social Anxiety Resources
Here are a few books that may be beneficial:
The Anxiety and Worry Workbook by David A. Clark and Aaron T. Beck
Thriving With Social Anxiety by Hattie C. Cooper
The Solution to Social Anxiety by Aziz Gazipura
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. Every possible effort has been made in preparing and researching this material. We make no warranties concerning the accuracy, applicability of its contents or any omissions.