Social Anxiety – What is it?

Are you scared of being judged by others? Do you feel intense fear when speaking in front of the class? Do you avoid going to parties where you don’t know lots of people? If these thoughts are persistent and stop you from living the life you want, you may be experiencing social anxiety.


What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder, which causes extreme worry and fear in social situations. Those with social anxiety feel symptoms in situations where they may be judged by others, such as meeting new people, public speaking, asking for help in class and ordering at fast food restaurants. This fear is hard to control and for many, gets in the way of everyday activities.


What factors can contribute to a person developing social anxiety?

The exact cause of social anxiety is unknown, however, factors that may contribute to the development of social anxiety include:

  • Genetics 
  • Family history
  • Bullying
  • Family conflict
  • Physical and/or emotional abuse
  • COVID-19 has also made this type of anxiety disorder much more common, especially in those returning to school and/or work


What are the symptoms of social anxiety?

Social interactions may cause the following symptoms:

  • Blushing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shaking
  • Difficulty speaking e.g., stuttering
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Brain fog
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Worry about embarrassment, especially surrounding people noticing how stressed you are in social situation/s


How is social anxiety assessed and diagnosed?

There is no medical test for social anxiety disorder. Your healthcare practitioner will assess and diagnose social anxiety by listening to an explanation of your symptoms and behaviours. You may have to answer some questions as well, sometimes via self-report questionnaires, such as the DASS-21.


What are the treatment options?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): teaches you how to replace unrealistic thoughts with realistic thoughts. It also uses breathing techniques & muscle relaxation to help decrease the physical reactions of anxiety.


Exposure Therapy: helps you to gradually face social situations, rather than avoid them.


Written by:
Rebecca Newton
Provisional Psychologist

Anxiety, Psychology
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