What is social anxiety?


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Social anxiety can be construed as being very uncomfortable in the public arena and one can look as though they are very shy.  No doubt people can feel anxious and apprehensive when talking to people in a group or public speaking and can get butterflies in their stomach and feeling that they will not be able to conduct themselves in the manner they would like to.

Element of shyness and anxiety in certain social conditions is understandable but the issue arises when the feelings are extreme causing distress and having a debilitating effect on the individual and deters them from progressing, achieving what they want to do in life and not being able to face social interactions. The problem exacerbates when the anxiety has detrimental effect on the individuals self esteem in carrying out daily tasks such as going to work, school or college and socially in the local environment impacting on them being able to par take in social activity.

When can individuals experience social anxiety?

  • Undertaking public speaking
  • Talking to authority figures such as the Police
  • Talking to a group of people
  • Talking to one person
  • Needing to approach a person to ask for help or clarification
  • Eating in public which may be crowded
  • Acting, singing and performing in front of an audience

What symptoms does social anxiety have on a person?

  • Mouth dries up
  • Stuttering and cannot talk clearly
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling fatigued and worn out
  • Butterflies in their stomach
  • A rapid heart beat
  • Blushing
  • Sweating

How does a person feel when they feel social anxiety?

  • Feel as if they are under the spotlight
  • Think others are judging them negatively
  • Feel others think they are boring, stupid and have nothing worthy to say
  • After a social activity the individual over analyses and blames themselves for what they think did not go well rather than looking at the positive elements
  • They often worry that others will notice these symptoms and judge them negatively as a result.
  • How do the people facing social anxiety cope with the situations?
  • Become isolated and avoid social interactions in the environment
  • Stay in the background in bars and pubs and ‘be seen and not heard’

What causes social anxiety?

A number of factors cause social anxiety such as: However, in some ways it is less important to know what causes social anxiety and more important to know what stops us overcoming it.

Past Experiences:

If someone felt embarrassed in a previous social situation such as when talking to a group of people, they may think the same will happen again and as a result avoid the situation.

Biological Genetic Reasons:

Social anxiety can be linked to family traits, if someone in your immediate family is socially anxious; you are more likely to possess those traits.

Once an individual knows what causes social anxiety that is unique to them to its important to know what stops us overcoming it and then being able to put in measures to deal with the situations that are right for that person.

What prevents us overcoming social anxiety?

Unhelpful Thoughts:Make it more difficult for people to overcome their social anxiety. Where the person holds negative thoughts about their ability to socially interact, with thinking such as; they are a failure or boring. Which them impacts on their self esteem and then they struggle to be involved in social situations. Resulting in isolation and exclusion which makes it harder to come out of their shell.  Negative thoughts stop individuals overcoming their social anxiety as they are constantly putting themselves down and predicting failure

Avoidance tactics:  By avoiding or escaping from social contact whenever possible. Although this initially takes the individual out of the situation but by avoiding the encounter will make it more difficult to deal with and overcome.

Staying in the background: By staying in the background the individual then will not be given the opportunity show they can manage and cope in being in the conversation by not interacting and staying quiet which then impacts on self confidence and thereby remaining socially anxious.

Enhanced self awareness: Individuals focus and concentrate on their feelings and how their body language or bodily functions may be perceived. Are they sweating or blushing? This then exacerbates the feelings and anxieties. As the individual is focusing on themselves they lose track of where the conversation is and thereby find it difficult to join in and then the negativity kicks in where they believe they are useless in social settings.

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