Do I Have Social Anxiety? 9 Signs And Symptoms
What Is Social Anxiety?
Before we start to discuss the intricacies of the symptoms of social anxiety and its symptoms, we first need to understand the basics of anxiety. Anxiety is a universal human feeling, like anger or joy, but it is only when anxiety is experienced in excess, and especially chronically, that it can be defined as a disorder.
There are many kinds of anxiety disorders, but Social Anxiety Disorder (or Social Phobia) is "an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations" as defined by Psychology Today. It is persistent and intense anxiety around social interaction, usually stemming from a fear of being judged. Otherwise, regular interactions turn into a stress-inducing nightmare for those with this disorder.
According to NIMH, nearly 7% of Americans have a social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder stems from many possible factors, including inherited traits, brain structure, and environment. There are also many risk factors which lead to this disorder: genetic/family history, upbringing, and early adverse experiences, personality, attention-drawing appearance, and high-stress events which may trigger social anxiety for the first time.
Of course, social anxiety comes in varying levels of intensity, from paralyzing and destructive to more of a slight inconvenience. We all will most likely experience social anxiety on some level, with many of us experiencing it commonly.
There you go, question answered!
In all seriousness, the question you should be asking is if you have a social anxiety disorder, which is a more severe and permanent form of social anxiety. But to answer if you have the disorder, we first need to dig into the symptoms of social anxiety disorder.
Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
The most obvious tell that you have this disorder is if you have experienced extreme fear or nervousness at what should just be regular interaction. Sure, we have probably all experienced a ridiculous amount of self-consciousness as a teenager which caused us high emotional stress, but a social anxiety disorder is a repetitive and long-lasting disorder that doesn't typically go away as you mature.
The best way to determine if you have a social phobia is to look at the symptoms. Below, we will look at nine common symptoms and signs of social anxiety disorder to help you determine if you truly have social anxiety.
These symptoms can all result from being in social situations that feel even slightly outside of your control, with strangers, seem important, and more.
The nine signs and symptoms include:
- Fear of talking to and interacting with others
All who have this disorder experience this fear of talking and interacting with others, as it is the most common symptom. Have you ever thought any of the following statements?
- "I'd just rather stay at home than to have to interact with people."
- "I don't want to talk to people because I'll sound silly."
- "Large crowds make me feel nervous and uncomfortable."
- "Talking to strangers is something I just don't like to do."
If you feel anxious throughout most of your day of interacting, for months on end, you most likely have a higher than average amount of social anxiety.
Thankfully, this is something that can be overcome with help.
2) Feeling sick or nauseous
This often occurs before or during social events or presentations and may even be experienced on a regular occurrence. Many of us without social anxiety disorder will get the butterflied occasionally, but what separates those of us with and without the disorder is a more regular and intense feeling of sickness.
Rather than the occasional butterflies before a big presentation, these feelings of nausea are often severe and persistent. If the condition continues to go untreated, this symptom may become increasingly more difficult to handle, and the physical sensations more intense.
3) Overly rigid in a posture with sudden poor communication skills
If you have a social anxiety disorder, then you may experience a freezing up of your muscles and posture in times of great social anxiety, a sort of a "deer in the headlights" look. This may be during a presentation or even just one on one in a more regular occurrence.
Accompanying the rigidity of your muscles, you may also tend to avoid eye contact and soften your voice. This is an unconscious trick your mind does to hide your presence. So, if you notice you tend to soften your voice and avoid eye contact when in conversation, you may be experiencing symptoms of social anxiety.
Working on communication skills is one way to overcome this symptom. This, in itself, can seem overwhelming, but this can be a simple process.
4) Trembling, a fast heartbeat, blushing, sweating, and more
Unlike the last symptoms, these are less about hiding and more about the activation of your fight or flight response. Because social interaction is flagged as overly stressful, your body reacts in a way to prepare you for fight or flight. It is a way of dealing with large amounts of stress and anxiety.
What is even worse, is that the more you think about stopping these symptoms at the moment, the worse they can get. We are sure many of you can relate to a time where you tried to stop blushing or sweating, and it just made it worse. The difference here is that these are regular, perhaps daily symptoms, not just during a big presentation or an embarrassing moment.
5) Extreme self-consciousness
Whether it's during a presentation where all eyes are on you or just a regular social interaction, your thoughts may be clouded with fears of others judging you for things. Self-consciousness is a universal human experience, but the level of which individuals with social anxiety disorder experience it is many orders of magnitude more extreme and common.
You will feel like your flaws are so obvious that others just have to be judging you on them constantly. This can stem from and lead to some of the symptoms listed in three and four.
6) Extreme anxiety over an upcoming social event or activity
Some of the most stress-inducing times for someone with social phobia is the anxiety which arises from an upcoming social event or activity. The expectation for what is coming can be enough alone to bring extreme anxiety. If you experience this often, so much so that you are driven to symptom number eight, then that is a good sign you have social anxiety.
7) An overly negative mindset for the outcome of a social situation
An upcoming social event alone isn't enough to drive someone to extreme anxiety and stress; the overly negative mindset and thoughts are the things that send someone over the edge. Many of us will unconsciously expect unrealistically bad things to happen when we are in high-stress social situations, and we can also expect a negative action to lead to a chain-reaction of destructive events.
Both frames of mind are more common than you might think, but what separates these one-off expectations in an objectively high-stress interaction from the symptoms of someone with social phobia is the level of extremity and frequency. If you have a social anxiety disorder, thoughts such as these will not just occur during an interview or a date, but in many everyday interactions. So much so that it can paralyze you in fear, driving you to avoid interaction altogether.
8) A desire to avoid and limit social interactions
If social interaction can come to be too much to handle, then you may be driven to remove yourself from them all-together. The stress and buildup of negative expectations can lead those with a social anxiety disorder to try to avoid and limit their social interactions, sometimes consciously, sometimes not.
This symptom tends to arise after the other symptoms have been around for some time. Though it is a coping mechanism, it doesn't help the individual with the underlying issue, and it is not a solution to the problem.
9) Symptoms last for six months or longer
You may have experienced many of these symptoms we have listed before, but you might not have a social anxiety disorder. The best way to tell if you truly have this disorder is if you have experienced most of these symptoms over a period lasting six months or longer.
To tell if it is a disorder and not just a one-off occurrence, we need to determine if the symptom is both reoccurring and over a long period if both of these conditions are met, you likely have social phobia.
If you recognize most of these symptoms in your normal behavior, there is a good chance you have social anxiety disorder.
What To Do
If you think you have a social anxiety disorder, you may be asking yourself, "what do I do?" Understanding the symptoms is the first part of the process, but there is more work to do.
Don't panic, first; you need to speak to a professional to confirm that you do, in fact, have a social anxiety disorder. Talk through your experiences and symptoms and see if they can verify the existence of the disorder. The next step, regardless if you have the disorder or not, is to talk to an expert who can help you get a better understanding of yourself and to begin working through some of these issues you have been experiencing.
The fact is, if you have been experiencing social anxiety on a more-than normal level, you should talk to someone who can help you through these difficulties. Start at for the quality professional help you deserve.
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