Do I Have Social Anxiety?: A Guide to the Social Anxiety

In contrast to everyday nervousness or embarrassment, social anxiety disorder can affect any and all social interactions an individual has throughout their day.  It is more than just shyness.  To see if you are experiencing some level of social anxiety, take our free quiz down below. 

do-i-have-social-anxiety-quiz

Do I Have Social Anxiety?

In contrast to everyday nervousness or embarrassment, social anxiety disorder can affect any and all social interactions an individual has throughout their day.  It is more than just shyness.  To see if you are experiencing some level of social anxiety, take our free quiz down below. 

Table of Contents

Are you feeling anxious in public spaces? It may be more serious than a case of butterflies. Social anxiety disorder affects an estimated 15 million American adults.

Most people experience social anxiety. It can happen in public speaking, large social gatherings, and any other social situation that triggers a fear response. Social anxiety becomes a disorder when it has a negative impact on your everyday life for more than 6 months.

Social anxiety is a serious issue for many people, but social anxiety is hard to recognize if you don’t know the symptoms. While we recommend speaking with a doctor for serious concerns, we have a social anxiety quiz that will check for the most common symptoms.

The social anxiety self-test provides valuable psychological information. Learn about the signs, treatments, and coping techniques of social anxiety here.

Take Our Free Social Anxiety Quiz

 

This test is not a diagnostic tool, nor is it intended to replace a proper diagnosis. Use it only for informational purposes. Mental health conditions should only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional or doctor. Regardless of your results from our assessment, you should speak to a doctor about your mental health.

What Is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is a common type of anxiety disorder. There are a variety of anxiety disorders, but social anxiety pertains to anxiety around people and public situations. This ranges from all social situations to specific social situations depending on the person; many people, for example, feel social anxiety in crowded areas, performances, and dating.

People with social anxiety may feel powerless or uneasy in social situations. They may avoid a social setting because of their anxiety. Sometimes, socially anxious people struggle to leave their own homes.

Social anxiety isn’t only experienced in the moment. Some people with social anxiety think about an event days, weeks, or even months in advance. This fixation leads to constant stress in everyday life.

Constantly fretting, it can feel impossible to do simple tasks. The impact of social anxiety prevents some people from living happy and healthy lives without proper treatment.

Signs of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety symptoms vary by person. For some people, social anxiety causes physical symptoms, while others experience mostly psychological symptoms.

People of any age can develop social anxiety, but social anxiety symptoms often appear in their teenage years.

Here are common symptoms of social anxiety:

  • Overwhelming worry about social embarrassment
  • Intense worry or nervousness before, after, or during a social event
  • Avoiding social events as the center of attention
  • Fear surrounding any attention from others
  • Pervasive thoughts about past social events
  • Shaky hands, nervous sweating, or a racing heart in social settings

Experiencing these symptoms may indicate a social anxiety disorder. Take the social anxiety quiz if you’re experiencing these symptoms.

Social Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Some people with social anxiety also experience panic attacks. Anxiety attacks are trigger reactions to overwhelming situations. They are acute responses to stress or fear.

Symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • Shaking
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Anxiety attacks limited to social settings are likely a result of social anxiety. There are steps to de-escalate an anxiety attack. Many people use the following methods.

  • Breathing exercises
  • Find a quiet place
  • Flex and relax each muscle slowly
  • Ask someone to help you

There is also a method called the 5-4-3-2-1 method. For this method, you name 5 objects, 4 sounds, 3 textures, 2 smells, and 1 taste. Anxiety attacks feel like sensory overload, so this method focuses on slowly reintroducing the senses.

Anxiety attacks feel overwhelming, but they will end with time. Identify what triggers anxiety attacks for you and avoid triggers if possible.

If someone else is having an anxiety attack, try to remain calm. Tell them to focus on breathing with you. Instead of telling them to calm down, distract them with conversation and light humor.

In this case, social anxiety is the underlying cause, while anxiety attacks are a symptom. The best way to prevent anxiety attacks relating to social anxiety is to treat the underlying cause.

Social Anxiety in Children

Children do experience social anxiety. However, young children may show different or additional symptoms compared to adults. These include:

  • Avoiding peers in school
  • Avoiding participation in class discussions
  • Having few friends
  • Having frequent nausea or stomach aches
  • Withdrawing in large groups

Social anxiety should be taken seriously for children as well as adults. They need support and understanding. There are ways to help children cope with social anxiety.

Children with social anxiety need support while maintaining a level of independence. Let your child deal with social situations, but be their cheerleader when they need you.
Seek professional help if your child’s happiness and quality of life are affected by their social anxiety.

Social Anxiety Risk Factors

Anyone can develop social anxiety. There are factors, however, that contribute to the likelihood of social anxiety.

These factors include:
  • History of trauma: past traumatic life events
  • Ongoing stress: constant stressors such as a busy work environment or relationship issues
  • Family history of anxiety: blood relatives with anxiety disorders
  • Drug and alcohol abuse: history of drugs and alcohol abuse or withdrawal
  • Other medical conditions: existing health conditions that increase the chance for other conditions
  • Prescription medications: medicine with anxiety as a side effect

These factors are linked to an increased risk of social anxiety and other anxiety disorders. You do not need any of these factors to develop social anxiety. The presence of any or all of these factors does not guarantee that you will develop social anxiety.

Social Anxiety Treatment

Social anxiety treatment starts with a diagnosis. Contact your doctor and tell them about your concerns. If you’re diagnosed with social anxiety, your doctor will work with you to find the best treatment plan.

Social anxiety is treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, prescription medication, or a combination of both.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an important first step for social anxiety treatment.

Understand that social anxiety treatment is about learning to manage and live with the symptoms. Therapy is an opportunity to explore why social situations affect you and how to cope in those situations. CBT teaches healthy ways to react to thoughts and feelings.

There is strength in seeking help. Therapy is an effective treatment for mental health disorders like social anxiety. It can be a decisive step toward a healthier life.

Despite the social stigma around therapy, around 47.4% of Americans will develop a mental health problem in their lifetime. It is a common treatment for a common problem.

Southern California Sunrise can connect you to therapy services within your insurance network. If you don’t have insurance, there are other mental health resources available.

Prescription Medication

The next step is a prescription. Some people only use therapy for treatment, while others use a combination of therapy and prescription medication.

Doctors commonly prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for social anxiety, though there are alternative medications available. These medications can be paired with cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety treatment.

Medication is a long-term treatment. Depending on the medication, it may take over a month to have an effect. Doctors may recommend switching medication or changing dosage based on the side effects and benefits.

A doctor will help you weigh the risks and benefits of medication if you are diagnosed with social anxiety. Prescription medications have a risk for side effects, but side effects may be worth the benefits.

Coping with Social Anxiety

Living with social anxiety isn’t easy, but it can be manageable. While seeking professional treatment is important, there are ways to cope in addition to cognitive therapy and prescription medication.

Are you wondering how to cope with social anxiety? Here are three coping strategies people use for social anxiety.

Use Breathing Exercises

People with social anxiety often struggle to control their breathing when they feel anxious. However, you can also use breathing to your advantage.

When you feel social anxiety building, breathe in through the nose for four seconds and then breathe out through the mouth for four seconds. Focus on your breathing.

The slow breathing technique helps with social anxiety because it centers your thoughts on one task. Since this method is common in yoga, some people with anxiety disorders find yoga helpful for anxiety treatment.

ACT

ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. ACT emphasizes the importance of accepting your social anxiety rather than trying to get rid of it.

Self-consciousness about social anxiety symptoms can lead to more anxiety. A big element of social anxiety is the fear of embarrassment, and some people are embarrassed by their anxiety symptoms.

ACT teaches socially anxious people to acknowledge their symptoms and accept the presence of their symptoms. People may perceive your anxiety, but some experiences are worth experiencing anxiously. Missing meaningful social events can be worse for your mental health than social anxiety itself.

Pick events that are important to you and don’t overwhelm yourself.

Challenge Your Thoughts

Anxious thoughts often reinforce negative thoughts. When anxious thoughts appear, challenge them. Ask yourself:

  • Am I thinking in extreme ways?
  • Am I thinking in negatives and not positives?
  • Am I expecting too much from myself?
  • Am I exaggerating my circumstances?
  • Can I change whatever is bothering me?
  • Why do I feel this way?
  • Would I talk to other people the way I talk to myself?

These questions focus on a more logical approach. Social anxiety isn’t logical, but you can challenge your anxious thoughts into meaningful self-reflection.

Tips to Prevent Social Anxiety

There are ways to lessen the severity of social anxiety. Factors outside of social situations can affect social anxiety. Because social anxiety is an anxiety disorder, you can use these general preventative methods.

These preventative measures will not eliminate social anxiety, but they can lessen social anxiety symptoms and promote healthier coping skills.

Physical and emotional health are different from mental health; however, good physical and emotional health will have a positive impact on your mental health.

When to Seek Professional Help

Mental health is an important part of your overall health, so don’t let your social anxiety go untreated if it’s affecting your life.

Talk to a doctor for serious concerns about social anxiety. Doctors can help with general information, prevention, and treatment.

There is also a large community of people with social anxiety through support groups and online forums that provide anecdotal tips for social anxiety. Some people with social anxiety will isolate themselves, but isolation will not help social anxiety. Instead, seek other people with similar issues to learn more about individual experiences.

Social anxiety is difficult to understand as it affects everyone differently. Your experience with social anxiety may be different from others. To learn more about social anxiety, be sure to take our social anxiety quiz if you haven’t already. 

Contact us for more information on social anxiety treatment.

References

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  2. Khoramnia S;Bavafa A;Jaberghaderi N;Parvizifard A;Foroughi A;Ahmadi M;Amiri S; (n.d.). The effectiveness of acceptance and commitment therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder: A randomized clinical trial. Trends in psychiatry and psychotherapy. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32321083/.

  3. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, June 19). Social anxiety disorder (social phobia). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353561.

  4. MediLexicon International. (n.d.). How to stop a panic attack: 13 effective methods. Medical News Today. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321510#how-to-help.

  5. Mental health in America. Bradley University Online. (2018, June 15). Retrieved November 12, 2021, from https://onlinedegrees.bradley.edu/blog/mental-health-in-america/.

  6. Potter, C. M., Wong, J., Heimberg, R. G., Blanco, C., Liu, S.-M., Wang, S., & Schneier, F. R. (2014). Situational panic attacks in Social Anxiety Disorder. Journal of affective disorders. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4119296/.

  7. Social anxiety disorder. Social Anxiety Disorder | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2021, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder.

  8. Social Anxiety in children. Raising Children Network. (2021, August 24). Retrieved November 12, 2021, from https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/health-daily-care/mental-health/social-anxiety.