The 4 Most Common Signs Of Social Anxiety
Updated February 05, 2020
Reviewer Dawn Brown
Social anxiety is a normal aspect of life. Whether you're encountering a new situation for the first time or you're about to begin an important meeting, these anxious situations are ultimately dancing with the unknown.
We've all been there. It's nearly your turn to speak, and your mind is in a flurry to think of the perfect thing to say, but it just doesn't come. This impending doom starts replaying in your mind with no hopes of going away. Over and over it repeats until the dreaded moment; then you do what you thought you would.
Sometimes the dreaded moment happens, and at this moment, it's not nearly as terrible as we thought. When nothing happens, we scoff at our trembling selves to move on with our lives like any other day.
Anxiety is almost always going to be in the form of irrational anxiety. Anticipating failures, accepting the possibilities of humility before any given situation, has us fearing something that has yet to be.
Don't worry; these signs of social anxiety are just a normal part of life. There hasn't been a single person on this planet who hasn't experienced them unless you're a psychopath of course.
We'll talk about the typical situations and how we can better understand how normal they are. We'll learn to adjust ourselves better7 and learn to carry on.
The Most Common Signs Of Social Anxiety
1 - Small Talk
You have to get that cup of coffee, but you're already near work, and your favorite go-to spot is closed today. Your friend, Becky, isn't going to be serving that daily dosage of espresso today, so you reluctantly head towards the local coffee shop just down the street.
On cue, the dread starts seeping in, you're thinking over your order as preparation. Let's avoid stuttering so early in the day. We're adults, we've lived long enough to speak a few simple words. The moment comes, you step up to the cashier, and you mutter your words smoothly and steadily. That's it, conversation over. Cashier hands your receipt and moves on to the other grumpy customer impatiently waiting for their fix. In short, nothing happened. So, why were we breaking down in full panic over something as simple as a coffee order?
Well, speaking to strangers is, well, speaking to a stranger. There's no context about this person, and there's no experience with this person's personality. Are they typically angry, annoying bubbly? The usual exchange of weather and popular news that you've had with Becky twists into another game of trial and error in this unfamiliar coffee shop.
For those of you who experience some painfully unnecessary sign of social anxiety, it's all completely normal.
What Helps: Boundaries
Being cautious around a person you don't know is deeply ingrained in the most primal safety mechanism of our lizard brains. Meeting a stranger during the caveman times could mean death and our minds have only developed around this type of logic.
Setting up boundaries, such as if someone touches you without permission or any context about the person, is a red flag. They've passed your barrier, and that gives you full permission to leave. Without even minor boundaries, we're left to our feelings to inform us of our discomfort. Nobody should be giving you panic attacks.
If you set your boundaries, then you'll have your time-tested ways to avoid conversations or situations that get to that point. A stranger crosses a limit, that's unacceptable to your standards, and you leave before things progress any further. Saving you time and the discomfort of social anxiety. There's freedom knowing what your limits you allow others to pass.
2 - Elevators
You don't need claustrophobia to feel uncomfortable in an elevator with a stranger. Add the previous situation, but let's also add a sense of being trapped. If you're stuck in an elevator. The likelihood of you having a pleasant conversation is rare. You're anticipating that it'll get awkward if anyone says anything.
Your brain knows this very well. Sending you those uncomfortable signals that that situation could happen it's something you want to avoid entirely for legitimate reasons.
What Helps: Know The End
The elevator ride will end. The doomsday scenario of you in a broken-down elevator is rare. There's no need to let that irrational anxiety run rampant over nothing.
The surge of emotions, regardless if they are good or bad, will not last forever. That feeling of nausea, at the moment, sucks. Wishing that you aren't experiencing it is only going to remind you that you are feeling bad.
Emotions and feelings are just modes of communication between your brain and body. Your mind is telling you that this situation is uncomfortable, so you should feel uncomfortable. Whether it's justified or not, your brain can't tell the difference, but the feelings are what is immediately present.
What helps is knowing that feelings are just feelings. If you're angry doesn't mean you have to act on it. Not every reaction needs a response. You are a complicated human with complicated emotions. Sometimes accepting your feelings, especially if it's temporary, is realize it'll end in only a few moments.
3 - Avoiding Eye Contact
There are 43 muscles in the human face contributing to an array of emotions. Ruffling your eyebrows informs someone that you're angry and curling your lips upwards indicates a positive smile.
Body language expressions are universal, but given that our face is the primary focus of our speech, why do we avoid looking at others?
Whether our eyes are the windows to our souls, eye contact is an exchange of vulnerability. Our faces don't lie. When we are feeling sad, we could be putting on a front. Flashing a disingenuous smile, for those who have a keen observational skill will notice right away. You'll be shooting that slightly discontent frown without being aware of it, and looking at another person's face is going to present those feelings front and center.
Eye contact can be an intimate exchange, and unfortunately, as a visual exchange, it happens within an instantaneous moment. It may be more relieving to stare at the ground, but this sign of social anxiety couldn't be more visible.
What Helps: Engage
Eye contact is how we know that the other person is listening. If you're speaking to a person who's always looking around the room, you wouldn't want to utter another word. This person seems rude, and you feel that you aren't be valued. Intuitively, we understand the importance of eye contact. It builds trust and a host of other communicative needs, but what could we do to improve our eye contact?
Well, the answer may seem obvious, but it's much easier said than done. You've got to build up the amount of eye contact by merely practicing it more.
Again, this is a tricky exchange. Staring isn't a good tradeoff. It'll make you appear weird or creepy. The general rule of thumb is not to force it. Don't impose your will onto another person. Prolonged eye contact gives host to elevated heartbeats and increased breathing, generally a more agitated person to those who aren't comfortable with eye contact.
The amount of sustained eye contact is dependent on what you're comfortable with. The idea of prolonging your gaze is going to have to be done in a series of baby steps and small stretches. Don't force a stare, that's counter-intuitive, and it'll give people a reason to avoid eye contact. In the end, there is no perfect amount of eye contact. It's a dance between two peoples comfort levels. If you pay attention to a person's response, you'll notice uncomfortable social cues and adjust. Ultimately, you are in control of your eye contact.
You shouldn't ever be maintaining eye contact any longer than you're comfortable with. A series of pushes and commitments, you'll quickly find yourself free from one of these signs of social anxiety.
4 - Public Speaking
Public speaking is the ultimate fear in all the signs of social anxiety. It doesn't always involve you, a podium, and a few thousand people. Public speaking can be entirely paralyzing for someone who's speaking in a small group of close friends. This sign of social anxiety is as gripping as any other, and quite frankly it's downright scary. Public speaking is, supposedly, one of the few fears we have over the fear of death.
Public speaking is the practice of how coherently and fluently you can speak. If you are stammering through your words and churning away at fragments of thought, you are far from that ideal image of confidently speaking your mind. This isn't to say that you're doomed to be terrible at speaking your mind, because there's a host of available options to those looking to speaking confidently in general, but more specifically speak in front of other people.
What Helps: Practice
Practice makes perfect and its undeniably it's the way to get better at anything. There are specific clubs and services available for those looking to build the soft skills necessary to improve their speech.
Toastmasters is a great club for those looking to build their public skills through a designed program and within a comfortable environment. You'll find that everyone in the club is walking along the same path as you are. You couldn't find a more empathetic group.
Thankfully, this is one of several services available. A general search on YouTube will also provide you with a host of other resources. If there's a will, there's a way. If you continue your search towards improving your public speaking, then it'll be your fast track towards talking to others as an individual whole.
If you fall into the category of people fearing public speaking above all else, then imagine how much confidence you'd gain from conquering that said fear? It's not possible to courageous without being in a state of fear. And social anxiety and all its sign is a simple doubt of your confidence to deliver a perceived correct action.
That anticipation of responding will have you in a flurry of negativity, but if you know that you can deliver if you have the confidence to believe that you'd be able to say exactly what you want to say, then where does that leave our anxieties? They practically fade as they begin to make less sense.
These common signs of social anxiety are just that. They are problems we all suffer from as a human being. Don't believe that you're an exception from this rule and don't let this problem stick to you or let you identify with these anxieties because it's something we are all dealing with. Don't blow them out of proportion. Elevating signs of social anxiety will only intensify the situation even more. They are solutions for those looking to practice their acute social anxiety, but there's also plenty of services for those who just need help or advice in general when it comes to anxiety.
A wonderful nature of being a human is that there are people here on the web, instinctively trying to help.
Hopefully, this list paints these common signs of social anxiety in less intense light and allows you to believe that these 'problems' aren't your identifiable flaws, but just another aspect of being an adult.
We truly hope that those reading this article will believe in the possibility and works towards relieving themselves from the crippling and downright paralyzing forces of these fears. Fear can be powerful forces and even causing us to believe that we are significantly less than we are worth, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
Difficulties are what makes life interesting and tackling each of these fears benefits us as we can grow more from each given fear.
Before we can go through it all, we've in just one thing, yourself. Like Theodore Roosevelt says, "Believing in yourself is half the battle!".