The 4 Most Common Signs Of Social Anxiety

Updated August 8, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Social anxiety is a common mental health disorder that can be characterized by a persistent and excessive fear of social situations. It may prevent a person from forming and maintaining relationships with others, trying new things, and developing a health level of self-esteem. While it can be common to experience some degree of nerves around social interaction, those with social anxiety disorder may actively avoid situations that cause fear, even when it’s to their detriment to do so. Learning to spot signs of social anxiety and find ways to overcome it can therefore be a crucial part of maintaining good mental and physical health.

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Social Anxiety Can Be Effectively Managed

The Most Common Signs Of Social Anxiety

While specific signs of social anxiety can differ from one person to another, there are some commonalities that may be present among most people experiencing it.

  1. Avoiding Small Talk

Being cautious around a person you don't know can be one of the simplest safety mechanisms of the human brain. For our ancient ancestors, meeting a stranger could mean danger or even death, and our minds have therefore largely developed around this logic.

A person with social anxiety may experience this sort of reaction to a more extreme degree. A stranger might provoke an intense sense of fear, perhaps because the person is afraid of judgment or is worried that something bad may happen if they say or do the wrong thing. People with social anxiety might avoid talking to new people, engaging in small talk, and putting themselves out there.

  1. Being Afraid Of Situations With (Seemingly) No Escape

Those with social anxiety can often be driven by an underlying fear of being trapped in a social interaction without an exit option. Being left alone at a party, attending an event alone, being stuck in an occupied elevator, etc. can all be examples of situations that might provoke fear.

This may even apply to more casual contexts like visiting a friend’s home, arranging a meeting at work, and even hanging out with family and friends. Things that are outside of a person’s control, including the reactions of others, can often be a huge contributing factor for social anxiety.

  1. Avoiding Eye Contact

Body language can play a crucial role in human interactions. Ruffling your eyebrows can inform someone that you're angry, and curling your lips upwards can indicate a cheerful smile. Humans generally know the importance of eye contact; it builds trust and other communicative needs. Eye contact can also be a way to know a person is engaged and listening. 

However, a person with social anxiety may find maintaining eye contact challenging. Aside from social anxiety, other mental health conditions may cause a person to avoid eye contact. 

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Social Anxiety Can Be Effectively Managed
  1. Fear Of Public Speaking

A fear of public speaking can be one of the most common fears we experience as humans. However, for those with social anxiety, this fear may go beyond just feeling nervous and escalate to something that truly feels like life or death.

A person may even go as far as missing important work or school events to avoid speaking in front of others. The underlying cause of this behavior may be a fear of embarrassing oneself or receiving judgment from others rather than the act of presenting or speaking itself.

Treatment Options For Social Anxiety

Although social anxiety can be intense and persistent, it can be treatable with medication and psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can dramatically lower social symptoms and has long-lasting effects, according to a 2015 study. Social anxiety can also be treated with medications like benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), although these can have side effects.

In addition to professional treatment, it can be possible to address social anxiety by gradually exposing yourself to situations that tend to lead to fear. Recognizing that what you’re experiencing may be social anxiety can also help, as it may lead you to feel more confident as you work to overcome challenges and make progress on your goals.

No matter what, remembering that you aren’t alone and that there can be resources to help you make things better can be incredibly beneficial. 

Consider Online Therapy For Social Anxiety Treatment

Online therapy is a newer treatment option for social anxiety that has recently gained popularity. One benefit of online therapy for social anxiety is that it can allow people to receive treatment from the comfort of their homes, reducing anxiety and increasing accessibility. Also, it can be more affordable than traditional in-person therapy, which can make treatment more accessible for those who cannot afford or access in-person therapy.

A meta-analysis of 12 randomized controlled trials found that online therapy can effectively reduce symptoms of social anxiety. The study discovered that online therapy reduced social anxiety symptoms just as well as in-person therapy, leading to high participant satisfaction.

Takeaway

Social anxiety is a common mental health condition that can be effectively managed with professional help. Common signs of social anxiety can include avoiding small talk, being afraid of social situations that don’t offer a clear escape, avoiding eye contact, and a fear of public speaking, among others. Cognitive behavioral therapy and medication can help manage these signs and improve overall well-being.

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