Each day you have tens, if not hundreds of social interactions. Whether you’re walking by someone on the sidewalk, ordering a coffee, calling about a utility bill, or talking with a coworker, these interactions have a huge impact on your day and your well-being. If you’re one of the seven percent of people living with social anxiety (social phobia), these interactions can make daily life extremely taxing.
You may find yourself analyzing every word, every conversation, every minute gesture you made and ruminating about the other person’s reaction to you. Many people with social anxiety endure this pain quietly for years before seeking out help. If the following five signs apply to you and your life, you should consider reaching out for help.
- You Fear Social Interactions: Individuals with social anxiety fear being judged or evaluated negatively by others. Each social interaction is another chance for a potential misstep, and oftentimes the individual has subconsciously declared the interaction a failure before it has even begun. During social interactions, individuals with this condition may worry about saying the wrong thing, using the wrong tone, sounding dumb, or how they look or appear to others. The fear can make it nearly impossible to make idle chit chat or even make eye contact with the other person.
- People Often Label you as Shy, Quiet, or Withdrawn: Because of the behavioral symptoms you experience, others may perceive you to be shy, quiet, or withdrawn. Although individuals with social anxiety often long for companionship and connection, social anxiety usually makes them feel isolated or lonely.
- You Experience Situational Distress: When confronted with certain social triggers, you usually experience significant distress. Common situations that trigger your fear include being teased or criticized, being introduced to other people, being the center of attention, being watched or observed while you do something, meeting people in authority positions, and meeting someone’s gaze (to name a few).
- Your Fear is Accompanied by Physical and Emotional Symptoms: Along with the fear you experience, you also experience other symptoms like rapid heartbeat, blushing, nervousness, excessive sweating, dry mouth or throat, trembling, muscle twitches, trouble catching your breath, and lightheadedness.
- You Avoid Typical Social Situations: Avoidance behavior is often a good indicator that something is wrong. People with social anxiety who start to avoid making eye contact, initiating conversations, avoiding places like public restrooms or parties, or eating in front of others should consider this a major red flag.
Social anxiety can be debilitating to live with, but help is available. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has been an extremely successful method for helping individuals with social anxiety get rid of their unhealthy thoughts and beliefs and develop strategies for conquering their fears.