Written by the Renew & Revitalize Life Coaching Team
Social anxiety is a mental health disorder that typically develops during childhood. Many individuals who suffer from this condition first experience its effects between the ages of 8 and 15. Diagnosis is often difficult because many times, children who have social anxiety are thought of as being “shy.” This often means they go without the medical attention they need to help them address the issue.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that anxiety sufferers comprise 18% of the population. Since the condition goes undiagnosed, those who face it often experience co-occurring behavioral and mental health issues such as avoidant personality disorder, bipolar disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, depression, and substance abuse.
Am I Just Shy?
Shyness, in and of itself, is a form of social anxiety, and in mild cases, “shyness” is a term that can be used interchangeably. Social anxiety disorder, however, is a mental disorder that can be completely debilitating. Shyness is not a condition that affects every area of an individual’s life, but a social anxiety disorder is severe enough that it creates avoidant behavior and causes a significant amount of distress.
An individual who suffers from social anxiety disorder typically needs to adjust their entire lifestyle to cope with the severe, pervasive feelings of anxiety. Some call this disorder “social phobia,” as they have a deep, persistent fear of exposure to situations that cause them stress. Bridges to Recovery mental health care facility states, “The symptoms of social anxiety disorder are distinctive and unique, and impossible to ignore for those who suffer from them.”
What Are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety?
Some individuals quietly endure the pain of social anxiety for a great portion of their lives before realizing that it is a condition they can get help with. They spend much time alone and depressed due to fears of facing others and the irrational idea that others around them will judge their every move, word, and gesture. If you find yourself in this situation, there are several symptoms that you may see in your behavior. If any of these apply to you, you may have a social anxiety disorder.
- Expecting social situations to involve negative situations with the worst possible consequences
- Beating yourself up and analyzing your perceived “shortcomings” after social situations
- Having intense anxiety and fear when facing social situations
- Avoiding any situation in which you may be the center of attention
- Being afraid or embarrassed to see people or participate in activities
- Fearing your physical symptoms like shaky voice, trembling, sweating, and blushing may be obvious
- Being afraid that others will notice that you seem anxious
- Severe, intense fear of seeing or talking to strangers
- Unavoidable fear of humiliating or embarrassing yourself
- Being afraid of situations in which others may judge you
If you face the symptoms associated with social anxiety and need help facing stressful situations, help is available. A social anxiety coach can help you develop skills; simple ones in the beginning, to gently modify your behavior and reduce the effects of social anxiety.