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Social anxiety 101: What is it and when to seek help for it

Published on:27 August 2021, 14:30pm IST
We’re all scared of getting judged in social settings but social anxiety can negatively affect all areas of life. Understand what it means and when to reach out for professional help.
Grace Bains
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Social Anxiety
No harm in reaching out for help. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Have you ever experienced a deep sense of paranoia and nervousness when attending an interaction at a social gathering, or while making introductions at work? Well, if you have, then you may be exhibiting symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

While it is normal to feel anxious and nervous in some high-pressure situations like job interviews or college presentations, some people tend to develop acute anxiety and stress when facing such situations. For such people, managing their overwhelming symptoms of social anxiety disorder requires professional help.

social anxiety
Social anxiety can affect all areas of life. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What is social anxiety?

As per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “the defining feature of social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.” People suffering from this disorder fear about their public appearance, and how other people will perceive them. This translates into them feeling anxious and paranoid of being viewed as dim or weird. The symptoms flare up when such people are not in a position to avoid certain social situations, causing aggravated distress and anxiety.

People with social anxiety disorder tend to gravitate towards choices based on fear. For example, not showing up for a dance class, or turning down a more demanding job role.

Although people do recognise the unreasonable nature of their fear when placed in a social setting, the development of their symptoms is not something that is in their control. So, the easiest way often is to avoid social events altogether.

social anxiety
You must identify signs of social anxiety and seek help. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Here’s how you can spot signs of social anxiety

People battling social anxiety show a variety of symptoms, ranging from physical, behavioural, to mental manifestations:

Physical symptoms: Common symptoms include sweating, chest pain, cold chills, blushing, blurred vision, dry mouth, headaches, heart palpitations, lump in the throat, nausea, trembling of the voice, and shortness of breath.

Behavioural symptoms: Avoiding social situations at all costs, isolating oneself from friends and family, and abruptly leaving social settings, are common symptoms.

Mental symptoms: Constant stream of negative thoughts, self-doubt, dysfunctional thought patterns, and pattern of not believing in positive outcomes with respect to social encounters, are signs of this disorder.

As per research by SAGE Journal, people with social anxiety disorder harbour strong beliefs regarding their inadequacy in social settings. For example, when participating in a group discussion for a job interview, people with this disorder may start to wonder why everyone else around them is seemingly relaxed and looks confident. This triggers self-doubt issues and may lead a person to think that they are not capable of performing as per their true potential and induce sweating and trembling.

social anxiety
Social anxiety can be dealt with. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Here’s when to seek help

This disorder, when left untreated, could interfere with your daily functioning, academic responsibilities, work obligations, and relationships. In case the symptoms start to adversely affect your daily life, you should consider seeking immediate medical intervention and therapy:

Avoiding social situations: You are going out of your way to avoid social situations, and feel extremely uncomfortable even with the prospect of stepping into a social setting.

Experiencing low self-esteem: You may be struggling with self-image issues, and experiencing difficulty to perform tasks due to a lack of belief in one’s abilities.

Struggling with depression: Depressive episodes could make you feel physically and mentally incapable of venturing out in social environments.

Social isolation: You find yourself cutting yourself off from your friends and family. You may also start opting for career choices or vocations that do not involve social gatherings.

As per research by the Annal of Internal Medicine, women are more prone to develop social anxiety than men. So, ladies, timely intervention is necessary to lead a healthier and functional life!

Grace Bains Grace Bains

Grace is someone who likes writing enough to make a living out of it. When she isn’t writing, you will find her having chai and reading a book.