Do I Have Social Anxiety?
Updated: Jun 23
What is Social Anxiety?
Feeling nervous in social situations is something we all experience from time to time. Whether you’re meeting someone new or giving a presentation, such encounters can spark a bit of unease in all of us. However, for someone with Social Anxiety, this fear can take a life of its own.
Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that affects almost 7% of the population at any given time. It is the third-largest mental health disorder on the planet.
Social Anxiety Disorder involves varying levels of fear of social situations, especially when those encounters are unfamiliar. Anything that puts you in a spotlight where you might be criticized. People with this disorder fear that they will be judged, negatively evaluated, or scrutinized by others.
The agitation associated with social interactions is often so high that it can wreak havoc in the day to day lives of people who have it. Individuals with SAD have trouble talking to others, meeting new people, and attending gatherings. It is a pervasive disorder, and it can affect all areas of a person’s life such as school, work, and relationships. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy, extreme nervousness, insecurity, and even depression.
Everyone at times feels some anxiety, embarrassment, or fear of being judged. But, often, people get over it and the feelings are temporary or fleeting. In the case of someone with social anxiety disorder, this shyness does not fade away on its own and it grows stronger and stronger. Their fears are often irrational or overblown. They are often aware of what’s going on, but they feel overwhelmed and powerless by the situation.
What causes Social Anxiety?
People with social anxiety may feel as if they’re alone, but they’re not. It is surprising to know that almost 15 million American adults are affected by this condition. Many people have such fears, but as to what triggers these feelings of anxiety?
Like most anxiety the root cause can be varied. Anything from too many stimulants in their diet to a childhood trauma. For some it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as family conflict, bullying, or any other kind of abuse. An imbalance of chemicals in the brain might also contribute to this disorder.
Some may experience anxiety in almost every social encounter, while for others only specific situations can trigger intense feelings. The following are some common triggers of social anxiety.
● Being called on in class
● Meeting new people
● Attending parties or other such social gatherings
● Taking exams or asking questions
● Job interviews
● Interacting with important people
● Using public restrooms
● Public speaking or being on stage
● Anything that puts you at the center of attention
What are the symptoms of social anxiety?
Now, all of us can experience some anxiety, but merely being shy or overwhelmed in some situations does not translate to having social anxiety. If shyness or confusion in social situations does not get in the way of our day to day lives, then it’s not social anxiety. However, if a tremendous amount of distress follows this shyness, it could indicate that things are not normal.
So how do I know if I’m just having “regular” feelings of worry about a social situation or am I deeper into a situation that might need some professional help? It’s similar to a question about being an alcoholic: If I have a couple of beers every week am I an alcoholic? Probably not. Unless you get to the point where drinking is negatively affecting your job, relationships and your health. Similarly, is your stress and worry over social events negatively affecting your life? Are you showing any of these symptoms and behaviors?
● Excessive worry and self-consciousness in everyday situations
● Avoiding any social situation because you can’t handle the stress
● Intense fear of being watched or judged by people you don’t know
● Fearing that others are thinking about you and how nervous you are looking
● Having uncontrollable thoughts about what others are thinking about you
● Fearing you will humiliate or embarrass yourself
● Not participating in class because you feel uncomfortable speaking in front of everyone.
● Fearing being the center of attention even when you want to be
● A need to bring a friend with you wherever you go. Etc.
These are behavioral symptoms. However, you may also go through some physical changes as well:
● Upset stomach or feeling nauseous
● Shortness of breath
● Blushing or red face
● Trembling and shaking.
● Feeling so overwhelmed when talking that you can hardly speak.
● Tightness in the chest or difficulty breathing
How do I know if I have social anxiety?
If you have all or majority of the signs mentioned above and even thinking about attending a social gathering makes you nervous, then chances are you do have Social anxiety disorder. All the details mentioned above will be enough to differentiate between normal nervousness and social anxiety.
However, if you still feel like you’re not sure, then taking this test will clear any doubts. If socializing has been a major problem your whole life, then chances are you have this disorder. Identification of a problem is the first step towards its solution. So, take your time and assess yourself to see whether what you feel when meeting others is normal nervousness or social anxiety.