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Social Anxiety

imgresFeeling nervous before a presentation or in some social settings can be normal. But in social anxiety, everyday interactions can cause irrational fear and can hinder you from moving forward. According to Wikipedia, “Social anxiety is a discomfort or a fear when a person is in social interactions that involve a concern about being judged or evaluated by others. It is typically characterized by an intense fear of what others are thinking about them (specifically fear of embarrassment, criticism, or rejection), which results in the individual feeling insecure, not good enough for other people, and/or the assumption that peers will automatically reject them.” Social anxiety can cause impairment with your social interactions and can affect your emotions and behavior. Symptoms, causes and treatment for social anxiety are listed below: What are the Symptoms:

1) Difficulty talking

2) Avoiding social interactions, speeches, presentations

3) Fear that you will look anxious in front of others

4) Fear that you will embarrass yourself in front of others when speaking

5) Sweating

6) Heart palpitations

7) Shaking

8) Avoid being the center of attention

9) Diarrhea

10) Cold hands

11) Nausea

12) Stomach upset

Some anxiety is normal and healthy for humans. It helps our bodies and minds to take action in dangerous situation. We all feel anxious from time to time. Severe anxiety, especially social anxiety, becomes a problem when it causes major problems in our overall daily functioning. When you have social anxiety, you  are worried that you will develop some of the symptoms above and avoid situations that may trigger your symptoms. Feelings of shyness or feeling uncomfortable in situations does not mean that you have social anxiety. Comfort levels are different from person to person due to personality or experience. When you have social anxiety, the symptoms are more severe than shyness or nervousness and it causes you to avoid social situations. There are two subtypes of social phobia or social anxiety:

  • Generalized: A person feels judgement and avoids social interactions
  • Non-generalized: A person is not severely anxious unless they are in certain types of social situations.

What Causes Social Anxiety?

It is likely that social anxiety causes are a combination of factors. Below is a list of those factors that may cause social anxiety:

  • Life Experiences: If we are put in situations where we feel different and are singled out in a negative way, we can develop beliefs about ourselves that are consistent with social anxiety. As these experiences continue, we pay attention to those parts of our environment and reinforce our negative beliefs.As these beliefs get strengthened, we tend to act, think and behave in a way that is consistent with social anxiety.
  • Our Brains: “Several studies (such as that of Blair et al., 2008) have found that certain areas of the brain, such as a small, almond-shaped area called the amygdala, can be more active in individuals with social phobia.”
  • Genes:A moderate level of heritability suggests a tendency towards anxiety.

What Treatment Options Do I Have?

Social anxiety disorder can be treated. The success of the treatment is different for everyone and is individualized. Therapy and medication have been effective. Cognitive behavior therapy, CBT, is a well known and effective type of therapy. It helps you ti identify, understand and challenge your thinking and behavior. The client is actively involved in this therapy and feels more in control in their treatment and recovery. Exposure therapy is a type of CBT where a person is gradually exposed to the feared situation where they learn to become less sensitive. Medication can be used in conjunction with therapy and can be short term or long term treatment options. It is best to speak with your physician or psychiatrist to see which medication would be the best approach for you in your treatment. Of course, support is important for your recovery. Finding a support group or therapist specializing in social anxiety can help to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety.

Social Anxiety

Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.

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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Social Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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