Social anxiety disorder is different from being a shy or quiet person. Social anxiety is intense fear, shyness or nervousness triggered by social situations. You might be very anxious about being negatively judged or evaluated by other people, fearing criticism or being afraid of doing something that you feel will be embarrassing or “stupid”.
Common feelings caused by social anxiety include high levels of fear, nervousness and automatic negative emotional cycles. You also might experience physical symptoms of anxiety such as panic attacks, sweating, blushing, having a racing pulse or a dry throat and mouth, trembling, and muscle twitches.
It might lead to you avoiding situations that trigger these feelings, for example, group situations like parties, or situations where you might be the centre of attention or have to interact with strangers.
You may spend a great deal of time anxiously anticipating an upcoming social situation. In such situations, you may have a number of methods you use to cope if you are unable to avoid the situation entirely. We often don’t notice that these attempts to cope can be part of what keeps the anxiety going. Certainly, people who experience social anxiety often report that they miss out on opportunities during their life as a direct result of avoiding specific situations.
People with social anxiety often experience significant distress in the following situations:
- Being introduced to new people
- Being teased or criticised
- Performing on stage
- Being watched or observed while doing something
- Public speaking
- Meeting people in authority
- Feeling insecure and out of place in social situations
- Making eye contact
- Talking, making phone calls if in public
- Being in an intimate situation with one person