Category Archive Social Anxiety

ByAnxious Minds

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder, also known as ‘social phobia’, is defined as a fear of negative evaluation by others. It is a common form of anxiety that usually starts during adolescence and for some people it can go away on its own, however, for many people it can become an ongoing issue.

Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the distress is so overwhelming that it affects an individual’s daily living, self-confidence, relationships and work or school life. Social anxiety is much more than shyness, it is an intense fear; and while many people will occasionally worry about social situations, someone with social anxiety disorder feels overly worried before, during and after them. This disorder is pervasive and causes distress most areas of a person’s life.


What are the symptoms?

Those with social anxiety disorder may experience many different symptoms and use many different behaviours to try and ease the symptoms. For example, people may:

– Have negative thoughts about themselves. This may be that they think they will say or do something that will be humiliating or cause people to have a negative perception of them.
– Focus on themselves during social situations. By keeping their focus on themselves, they can try their best to avoid doing anything humiliating and try to keep control of themselves, however, this can cause them to appear unresponsive and distant.
– Be vigilant of any possible triggers that may set off their social anxiety, so they can plan how best to respond.
– Assume that other people will react negatively to them. Social anxiety disorder is the fear of negative evaluations from others, and so those who have it may make their own assumptions of why someone may not or will not like them.
– Feel intense physical reactions such as,racing heart, upset stomach, chocking sensations, sweating, blushing, trembling, dry mouth, shortness of breath, dizziness, blurred vision, urge to urinate etc.
– Get panic attacks.
– Be conscious of showing visible signs of their anxiety such as blushing and shaking and so they may cling onto themselves or use other safety behaviours to prevent their anxiety from being known.
Safety behaviours are things that a person will do to either make themselves feel more comfortable, reduce symptoms or avoid situation that may trigger social anxiety. Examples of safety behaviours are:
– Avoiding social contact or having minimal participation in it.
– Avoiding disclosing personal information.
– Increasing substance use.
– Avoiding eating in public.
– Focusing on themselves (which can sometimes leave them looking distant).
– Avoiding performance tasks such as sport or public speaking.
– Talking fast.
– Gripping onto themselves or putting their hand in pockets to avoid visible shaking.
– Making excuses to keep leaving (e.g. going to the toilet or getting fresh air).
– Ask other people questions to keep the focus off themselves.
– Selecting a position in the situation to avoid focus (e.g. sitting in the back of the room).
– Averting eye contact.
– Not using public toilets.
– Planning out escape strategies such as announcing that they only have a set amount of time to be in the situation (e.g. “I only have an hour and then I need to go as I have things I need to do”).
In addition to the behaviours mentioned, there will be other ones used that are specific to the individual. Although safety behaviours can give the person relief from the anxiety,

it is not a long-term solution and does not give the person a chance to prove to themselves that they can cope in social situations and get better to the point where that can live daily life with more ease. By planning and using these safety behaviours reinforces that idea that these situations are dangerous, which will make the anxiety worse and worse over time.

Common triggers
There are two main types of triggers, which are: performance situations and interpersonal interactions.
Performance situations are situations where people feel they are being observed and judged by others. Examples of performance situations are: public speaking, answering questions in meetings or classes, eating in front of others, using public toilets, performing in public, and entering a room where everyone is already seated.
Interpersonal interactions are situations where people are interacting with others and developing relationships. Examples of interpersonal interactions are: meeting new people, talking to co-workers, inviting others to do things, going to social events, dating, being assertive, talking on the phone, expressing an opposing opinion, ordering food at a restaurant and returning something to a shop.

Myths about social anxiety
Like many other common mental health issues, social anxiety is often misunderstood; for example:
One myth is that people who have social anxiety disorder are mute: it is often assumed that those with social anxiety disorder have selective mutism, which means that they are not capable of speech in specific situations or with specific people. However, this is rarely the case, and although selective mutism can co-exist with social anxiety disorder, it is a separate disorder and does not affect most people with social anxiety disorder.


Another myth is that social anxiety and shyness are the same thing. Although characteristics of being shy are also true for social anxiety disorder, social anxiety is an intense fear, like any other phobia, those who have it experience a severe fear reaction to their triggers. Unlike shyness, those with social anxiety may experience panic attacks, depression and can negatively affect the individual long before, during and after the social situation.


Additionally, people may assume that social anxiety only refers to public speaking. This may be an assumption due to anxiety or nervousness being experienced by many people, not just those who have social anxiety or are shy, while speaking in front of a group of people. However, although people with social anxiety may experience symptoms of their disorder during this performance situation, they may also experience a similar level of anxiety by talking with someone on the phone.

The idea that alcohol and other substances can cure social anxiety is a common myth. Alcohol is often referred to as ‘liquid courage’, and although it may seem like it eases symptoms for a short time and increases confidence, people should not be fooled into thinking that drinking can cure social anxiety. Drinking may be used as a safety behaviour but can be a dangerous one. Drinking, like other forms of self-harm, swaps one pain out for another and can worsen the mental health disorder rather than help people cope with it.

It is also common for people to disassociate mental health disorder with physical issues, in the sense that mental health issues cannot physically hurt or kill you (this is not just specific to social anxiety disorder). However, this is not true; when people experience intense emotions as a result of their mental health it can have physiological effects such as: increased chances of heart disease, palpitations, sweating, dizziness, chest pain, skin irritation and rashes, fatigue and insomnia, nausea, weight loss, obesity, diarrhea, headaches, muscle aches, chills or hot flushes and for some, their mental health issues lead to suicide. There are many physical responses to mental health issues that are not mentioned here.

It may be assumed that people will be able to get over their social anxiety on their own or that the fears are a phase that will fade over time. Although some people may be able to recover on their own, for the majority of people who experience mental health issues such as social anxiety, their disorders will not suddenly disappear, and if the disorder is ignored and untreated then it may worsen and become harder to cope with.

How to help
Accessing talking therapies is widely encouraged for any mental health issues; this can come in the form of one-to-one counselling, group counselling or peer support groups. Talking therapies gives people the opportunity to be able to discuss their problems, receive other view points on their situations, receive guidance through coping techniques, challenge negative thoughts in a safe environment, and it allows people to share their experiences. Mental health issues can be difficult to overcome on your own and so by receiving that extra support can make a difference in recovery.


However, due to the nature of social anxiety disorder, some people may find it too daunting to seek help. Therefore, there are some self-help strategies people can use before they seek help with their social anxiety disorder.

Learn about social anxiety – the more people know about their mental health issues, the more they will understand how to cope with them. There are many forms of information on the internet and in books that people can use to get more understanding of their disorder, if they feel too uncomfortable talking with someone about it.

Challenge negative thoughts – when a situation arises that causes the individual distress, it is important that they consider why they find it distressing. Negative thoughts can catastrophize and forecast negative outcomes of a situation that may not hold any truth but can still cause intense distress and anxiety. These negative thoughts can cause people to avoid a situation or to experience it as negative because they had already decided in their head that that was going to happen. Challenging these thoughts can help the person have a rational and healthy outlook on the situation.


Be positive – thoughts can sometimes decide how a person will experience a situation. For example, if someone assumed that they would have a bad experience of a situation then they will have a bad experience of it. Our thoughts influence our behaviours, so if we go assuming the worst, our behaviours will reflect that which will then reinforce the idea of the situation being a negative one. Whereas, if a person in the same situation went assuming they will have a positive experience, they will approach the situation feeling positive and their behaviours will follow.

Create a fear hierarchy – this is where someone writes a list of feared situations starting with least scary to most scary, then proceeding though each situation in their own time and as many times as needed until the familiarity with the situation helps to reduce the anxiety response.


Try to do more things that you would usually avoid – it is easy to get into a habit of avoiding challenging situations as it is the easier route. However, avoiding situations reinforces the idea that they are too much to cope with and does not allow you to prove to yourself that you can cope with situations. Additionally, much like the ‘list of fears’ technique, becoming familiar with situations can help ease the anxiety.

Breathe – breathing exercises can help with the physical responses to stress. Deep breaths can help control quick and rapid breaths, minimize shaking and by inhaling more oxygen can slow down heart rate.


Distraction techniques – when people experience intense emotions from their mental health that they cannot calm down from, it may be that taking their mind off their issues is what is best. This is not to say that people should ignore their emotions, but distraction tasks can allow the individual to calm down which will put them in a better frame of mind to be able to confront the problem. Distraction tasks can include: walking, exercising, drawing, painting, reading, doing house work, watching something on television, doing puzzles or any activity that occupies the mind and shifts focus to something else that is enjoyable.

There are many other possible coping techniques that people can use, it is important that people find what works best for them so that they have their coping strategies at the ready when they are faced with a possible trigger.

ByAnxious Minds

Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder

If there is something that makes you think that you might be suffering from what is generally referred to as social anxiety disorder, it is advisable that you evaluate yourself and try to identify if you are really undergoing such problem. The best way to deal with it is to find out everything that is there to know about the symptoms.

But before we discuss the symptoms here, it is important to understand what anxiety disorder actually is. To put it simply, it is a condition wherein one finds all such situations dreadful in which one has to interact socially.

This means that if you were to speak in a public gathering and you feel absolutely terrified, you might be suffering from a social anxiety disorder. However, to be termed as a disorder this kind of “social anxiety” should be something more than the normal nervousness attached with social interaction. It has to have a rather disabling effect on you. The fear in case of social anxiety disorder is no less than overwhelming.

Coming to the symptoms, they include an accelerated heartbeat, excessive sweating, dizziness, lack of concentration and other such anxiety-related symptoms that are very much capable of disrupting one’s daily activities. These symptoms can occur in case of any normal person and the presence of them does not necessarily mean that you are suffering from a social anxiety disorder.

However, if these symptoms keep recurring consistently for over six months, it is time for you to take them seriously. If there are plausible explanations for their occurrence, it is fine. But if they occur without a reasonable cause or the cause is just too feeble to justify their occurrence, you might be suffering from a social anxiety disorder. And this could grow serious over time and could make you immobilized.

In its more serious forms, the disorder can compel a person to stay at home for the most part of his day. He or she just might start fearing to step out due to the sheer dread of socializing.

People suffering from this disorder tend to be reclusive and tend to get depressed, which may lead them to substance abuse and alcoholism. Therefore, social anxiety disorder has serious associated complications.

If left uncorrected the disorder may get more complicated and bring repercussions. It is, thus, important that the problem is taken care of at the earliest. Being aware of the problem and the symptoms is half the battle won.

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Stress And Social Anxiety

One of the major symptoms associated with social anxiety is stress. Stress works two ways – social anxiety can cause it, and the stress can intensify social anxiety. Stress can be a big problem, because it leads to other health-related problems, such as high blood pressure or heart attack.

Stress can also cause headaches, ulcers, insomnia, excessive fatigue, and muscle pain. When a person who suffers from social anxiety is contemplating a social interaction or situation, they experience stress. When they are actually in social interaction or situation, the stress level increases to extreme levels and triggers a variety of other symptoms.

Stress plays such a big role in social anxiety that, in many cases, once a person learns how to control their stress levels, they literally overcome their social anxiety as well. There are many methods that can be used to control stress levels. Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce or eliminate stress, because believe it or not, stress can create energy. This is the fight or flight response that we were all born with. This fight or flight response was used by our ancestors for their survival. We don’t typically use this fight or flight response for our survival today, but it is still there, and it does create energy that needs to be used. Exercise is the way to use it.

You can also employ other methods for dealing with long-term stress, and it’s side effects. These methods include Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), Autogenic Relaxation, and Imagery Relaxation. These methods can be used along with exercise to reduce your stress levels greatly.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a technique in which you tense, then relax, groups of muscles. The ultimate goal of PMR is to be able to relax your entire body all at once. When you can relax all of your muscles, stress disappears from your muscles, and it is either reduced or eliminated.

Autogenic relaxation is often used for the relief of chronic pain. Since stress can cause chronic pain, autogenic rest is used to treat stress as well. Autogenic relaxation combines deep breathing exercises with imagery and positive verbal statements to control and master a problem that is causing stress.

Imagery relaxation also involves deep breathing, but instead of dealing directly with what is causing the stress, you use your mind to take you away from the stressful situation – to a happier, more relaxed place. This can be done with the use of tapes, or on your own.

Whether social anxiety is causing your stress or something else is causing your stress, it is important that you deal with the stress as soon as possible, before it leads to other more serious health problems and takes over your life. Even if you are not able to deal with other issues just yet – such as your social anxiety – your stress levels can still be greatly reduced.

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Social anxiety: the most misunderstood psychological problem

Social Anxiety is hardly a common term or word that you get to hear everyday.

But most people, at different times in their lives, have been plagued by shyness.

Remember the feeling of being introduced to a crowd of total strangers for the very first time? Or do you recall a childhood friend who was considered the laughing-stock in grade school? Any parent will tell you that it’s also normal for the little sister to be teased by older siblings or to be criticized by her playmates. Anyone who has taken center stage during an oral debate in school would also claim to have experienced a sudden breakout of sweat and uncontrolled shivering. Being the center of attention is always a desirable thing. For shy people, it can cause terrible “butterflies” and fainting spells.

Shy people tend to exhibit timidity, fear, and, in some occasions, even phobia. More than just being overly self-conscious or averse to meeting people, people with Social Anxiety think and feel that everyone seems to be watching their every move. They can’t relax and are constantly afraid that people are “judging” them in some way. Even their mobility is hampered by their excessive fear of being in public. Walking inside a mall or strolling in a park is a constant struggle.

People who have this type of anxiety disorder tend to isolate themselves, even if they are around familiar people. It is a crippling condition called Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety is overwhelming fear of social situations where you may be “judged” negatively, and because of this, you become so self-conscious and afraid to be humiliated in front of others. Aside from fear and anxiety, people with phobias do everything they can to avoid their phobic stimulus.

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ByAnxious Minds

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Do you have intense feelings of discomfort and fear when in social situations? You may have social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder affects millions of people around the world and varies greatly from person to person. However, it is important to know that if you find social settings unbearable, you can get help. A doctor will be able to help you treat your social anxiety disorder so that you can live a normal life instead of being paralysed by fear.

It’s hard to pin down the exact symptoms of social anxiety disorder, which is why seeing your doctor is so important. However, some common signs that you may have this disorder include a number of fears. Do you commonly fear social situations? You should see your doctor if your fears reflect the following: fear that all attention is on you, fear of making mistakes, fear of judgement, fear that everyone is better than you, fear of humiliating yourself, or fear that everyone sees your flaws. These fears may or may not cause panic attacks, but always cause intense anxiety. Anxiety may lead to shaking, a pounding heart, blushing, sweating, stammering, nausea, and dizziness.

Shyness is not the same as social anxiety disorder. While you may feel shy in certain situations, social anxiety disorder is physically debilitating to a person experiencing it. In fact, social anxiety disorder may take over a person’s life if left untreated. This disorder usually starts from childhood or early adulthood and can affect everyone, regardless of race, religion, or gender, although women are more likely to develop this disorder than men.

Social anxiety disorder is often found in conjunction with other anxiety disorders. It is also common for a person with social anxiety disorder to try to treat it using drugs or alcohol, which will in turn lead to substance abuse. The best and only way to treat social anxiety disorder is to see your doctor. Therapy and medication can help you work through this disorder so that you can live a healthy and socially active life. Cognitive-behavioural therapy will help you grip your disorder so that you can learn how to make yourself calm down and have less fear in social situations. Medications can be short or long term are can work to block certain inhibitors. Together, you can your doctor can find the perfect treatment for you so that you can take back control of your life. You may have to live with social anxiety disorder for the rest of your life, but it does not have to stop you from being happy.

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ByAnxious Minds

Dealing With Dating Anxiety

Life is stressful as it is and adding relationships to the mix can play a very negative role on your anxiety levels, especially if you already have a habit of developing panic-stricken attacks when it comes to love and dating.

Over the last 10 years there have been progress in various therapies to help relieve the burden of anxiety. It is best that you try to avoid taking drugs to cope your dating anxiety.

Below are 4 ‘non-drug’ dating anxiety prevention tips:

1. Instead of hiding your nervousness, admit it to yourself and your date. Often times what leads to a major anxiety attack spawns from trying to keep your initial nervousness covered up. If your ‘special someone’ comes into the room to see you then do not pretend your anxiety isn’t there. Simply say “I am sorry if I appear nervous, but I am very nervous right now”. Your date will appreciate the honestly and by telling him/her you’ll feel a lot better.

2. If you had an anxious episode during a date then afterwards do not beat yourself up worrying how you acted. It’s best just to give yourself affirmations in a positive manner that helps you build confidence and do better the next time around by taking control.

3. In order to calm down each time you have an anxiety attack, simply walk away and breath. If you happen to be with your new girlfriend or boyfriend then by following my previous tip on being honest with them about your nervousness, and also let them know that you need a minute alone, walk outside, and breath slowly until you regain composure. Before you know it, this simple technique will calm you down every time.

4. Pray… The power of prayer is amazing. Ask God for courage and strength to help you overcome your anxiety.

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ByAnxious Minds

Causes of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety or social phobia has many varied causes, including biological, psychological and social. However, each one may be intertwined so it is hard to specify exacting ones. Though it is not yet known if social anxiety is caused by a genetic disposition or something learned through family social conditioning, it does appear that it can run in the family.

The first group of causes include environmental and social. It is believed by some social phobia experts that it is possible to learn this from the environment in which you are in. It has been suggested that simply interacting and watching others with similar tendencies can be influential. Also, it is possible that overprotective and controlling parents may develop this in their children and fail to recognise the disorder in them because they too suffer from it and consider it to be perfectly normal. Others think that people may develop social phobias based on a negative childhood event, including bullying, public embarrassment and teasing. Such indicators include disfigurement, abuse (sexual and physical), neglect, speech impediments or conflicts within a family.

The second group of causes of social anxiety is thought to be due to psychological or emotional trauma experienced in childhood. The subsequent symptoms may be the direct result of unresolved traumatic experiences such as car accidents, abuse, relationship breakdowns, humiliation or even a natural disaster. The key elements of that are common amongst all people suffering anxiety as a result of traumas include an event or experience that was not expected, the person was not prepared for, and there was little if anything that the person could have done to have pretended it from occurring. However, such traumas can also run deeper, including a poor bonding between the major caregiver and the person during childhood. The person may well have not learned the skills needed to regulate calmness, self-soothing and focus during stressful events.

The third social anxiety cause is biological in nature, including biochemical reactions, the structure of the brain and the possibility of the disorder having been inherited genetically. In genetical inheritance, most researchers believe that the main part of the disorder is born out of the inhibited behaviour. Young babies with such a disposition are quick to show stress and fear of unfamiliar situations and people, and as they grow into teenagers and adults, their risk of getting social phobia increases. Also, studies have shown that it may also have something to do with the section of your brain that controls fears (amygdale). Through CAT scans, doctors have found that people with this disorder have an excess amount of activity in the amygdale and too little in the prefrontal brain cortex. Biochemically speaking, more studies indicate that an imbalance in the serotonin levels in the brain, dopamine, GABA and neurotransmitters may be to blame.

The most common group that social anxiety disorder sufferers fall into is the second. Each and every day, many people, young and old, experience traumas, some of which they may well put behind them for many years, or at least they believe, but somewhere inside of them, they have not learned to cope with the resulting trauma, but in fact pushed the emotional side under the carpet or so to speak. When this happens it is essential to get medical support and treatment. Such traumas as abuse, rape and other experiences can develop from social anxiety to include even post-traumatic shock disorder, which can attack any person at any time in their lives. It may manifest itself many years later, even after the trauma has since been apparently forgotten.
Though there are many causes of social anxiety phobias, the bottom line is that the result is an unnatural fear of social interaction and a lowered self-esteem that can not only hinder a person’s ability to function in everyday situations but in some cases hinder the persons ability to simply live a normal existence outside of their home. Sometimes the disorder is so debilitating that the person cannot even carry on regular daytime activities. If you or anyone you suspect may have this disorder, there is no shame in asking for medical help. This does not have to be a lifelong affliction, nor is it normal because someone else you know is dealing with it by pushing it away. Your family doctor is your best source of relief in this regard.

ByAnxious Minds

Social Media Anxiety Disorder (SMAD) and the Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

Is social media creating generations of social recluses? What happened to playing kickball, board games, and tag? For those of you who are over 35 years old, you probably have vivid memories of running around outside with friends, laughing and shouting. However, those of you who are part of the “millennials” generation are probably asking yourselves, “What the heck is kickball?” Well, I’ll tell you…Once upon a time, before the iPhone, social media, or even the internet, kids used to interact face-to-face by talking, playing, and laughing. I mean, actually laughing… out loud.

Not typing “LOL” or texting a laughing emoji. Through this in-person interaction, young people developed certain skills such as reading non-verbal cues, engaging in spontaneous and reciprocal conversation, identifying facial emotion, etc. They learned how to entertain themselves using creativity and imagination, rather than be passively entertained by a device.

Unfortunately, a lack of social skills is not the worst potential effect of our social media obsession. Social Media Anxiety Disorder (SMAD) is a diagnostic term now being used among mental health care professionals to describe a severe form of anxiety related specifically to social media overuse. It is thought to be a type of social anxiety. While there is no formal diagnosis of this disorder in the DSM-5, its clinical presentation is becoming more prevalent among younger populations. Researchers have begun developing psychologically sound questionnaires that distinguish between healthy and unhealthy social media use. There has even been an abundance of studies conducted that show the harmful effects of social media on mental health.

So, what exactly is Social Media Anxiety Disorder? Most people with social media accounts do not become anxious or stressed when they’re unable to constantly check their notifications throughout the day. However, for some, it is an addiction. Those who have SMAD can experience severe anxiety if they are away from their social media accounts for just a few minutes. They may forgo social events with friends and family just so they can remain active online. Developing emotional attachments with their online buddies, whom they’ve never actually met, is also a possible sign of SMAD. Additional signs and symptoms of SMAD include:

  • Spending over six hours a day on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
  • Having an overwhelming need to share things with others on social media sites
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • Neglecting work or school to comment on Facebook or Twitter account
  • Interrupting conversations to check your social media accounts
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are unable to access social media
  • Unsuccessful past attempts to reduce your use of social media

Research has shown that anxiety is not the only mental health issue that can result from obsessive social media use. Depression, impulse control disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, paranoia, and suicidality have also been found to be among the possible impairments related to SMAD. In short, while technology has made our lives more convenient and entertaining, it has also created a new wave of problems regarding early social development and emotional wellbeing. So instead of texting your friend about your day, or posting a status update on Facebook, meet up for lunch and have an actual conversation.

ByAnxious Minds

Social Anxiety Disorder

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder, also known as ‘social phobia’, is defined as a fear of negative evaluation by others. It is a common form of anxiety that usually starts during adolescence and for some people it can go away on its own, however, for many people it can become an ongoing issue.

Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the distress is so overwhelming that it affects an individual’s daily living, self-confidence, relationships and work or school life. Social anxiety is much more than shyness, it is an intense fear; and while many people will occasionally worry about social situations, someone with social anxiety disorder feels overly worried before, during and after them. This disorder is pervasive and causes distress most areas of a person’s life.

What are the symptoms?
Those with social anxiety disorder may experience many different symptoms and use many different behaviours to try and ease the symptoms. For example, people may:

-Have negative thoughts about themselves. This may be that they think they will say or do something that will be humiliating or cause people to have a negative perception of them.

-Focus on themselves during social situations. By keeping their focus on themselves, they can try their best to avoid doing anything humiliating and try to keep control of themselves, however, this can cause them to appear unresponsive and distant.

-Be vigilant of any possible triggers that may set off their social anxiety, so they can plan how best to respond.

-Assume that other people will react negatively to them. Social anxiety disorder is the fear of negative evaluations from others, and so those who have it may make their own assumptions of why someone may not or will not like them.

-Feel intense physical reactions such as, racing heart, upset stomach, chocking sensations, sweating, blushing, trembling, dry mouth, shortness of breath, dizziness, blurred vision, urge to urinate etc.

-Get panic attacks.

-Be conscious of showing visible signs of their anxiety such as blushing and shaking and so they may cling onto themselves or use other safety behaviours to prevent their anxiety from being known.

Safety behaviours are things that a person will do to either make themselves feel more comfortable, reduce symptoms or avoid situation that may trigger social anxiety. Examples of safety behaviours are:

-Avoiding social contact or having minimal participation in it.
-Avoiding disclosing personal information.
-Increasing substance use.
-Avoiding eating in public.
-Focusing on themselves (which can sometimes leave them looking distant).
-Avoiding performance tasks such as sport or public speaking.
-Talking fast.
-Gripping onto themselves or putting their hand in pockets to avoid visible shaking.
-Making excuses to keep leaving (e.g. going to the toilet or getting fresh air).
-Ask other people questions to keep the focus off themselves.
-Selecting a position in the situation to avoid focus (e.g. sitting in the back of the room).
-Averting eye contact.
-Not using public toilets.
-Planning out escape strategies such as announcing that they only have a set amount of time to be in the situation (e.g. “I only have an hour and then I need to go as I have things I need to do”).

In addition to the behaviours mentioned, there will be other ones used that are specific to the individual. Although safety behaviours can give the person relief from the anxiety, it is not a long-term solution and does not give the person a chance to prove to themselves that they can cope in social situations and get better to the point where that can live daily life with more ease. By planning and using these safety behaviours reinforces that idea that these situations are dangerous, which will make the anxiety worse and worse over time.

Common triggers
There are two main types of triggers, which are: performance situations and interpersonal interactions.

Performance situations are situations where people feel they are being observed and judged by others. Examples of performance situations are: public speaking, answering questions in meetings or classes, eating in front of others, using public toilets, performing in public, and entering a room where everyone is already seated.

Interpersonal interactions are situations where people are interacting with others and developing relationships. Examples of interpersonal interactions are: meeting new people, talking to co-workers, inviting others to do things, going to social events, dating, being assertive, talking on the phone, expressing an opposing opinion, ordering food at a restaurant and returning something to a shop.

Myths about social anxiety
Like many other common mental health issues, social anxiety is often misunderstood; for example:

One myth is that people who have social anxiety disorder are mute: it is often assumed that those with social anxiety disorder have selective mutism, which means that they are not capable of speech in specific situations or with specific people. However, this is rarely the case, and although selective mutism can co-exist with social anxiety disorder, it is a separate disorder and does not affect most people with social anxiety disorder.

Another myth is that social anxiety and shyness are the same thing. Although characteristics of being shy are also true for social anxiety disorder, social anxiety is an intense fear, like any other phobia, those who have it experience a severe fear reaction to their triggers. Unlike shyness, those with social anxiety may experience panic attacks, depression and can negatively affect the individual long before, during and after the social situation.

Additionally, people may assume that social anxiety only refers to public speaking. This may be an assumption due to anxiety or nervousness being experienced by many people, not just those who have social anxiety or are shy, while speaking in front of a group of people. However, although people with social anxiety may experience symptoms of their disorder during this performance situation, they may also experience a similar level of anxiety by talking with someone on the phone.

The idea that alcohol and other substances can cure social anxiety is a common myth. Alcohol is often referred to as ‘liquid courage’, and although it may seem like it eases symptoms for a short time and increases confidence, people should not be fooled into thinking that drinking can cure social anxiety. Drinking may be used as a safety behaviour but can be a dangerous one. Drinking, like other forms of self-harm, swaps one pain out for another and can worsen the mental health disorder rather than help people cope with it.

It is also common for people to disassociate mental health disorder with physical issues, in the sense that mental health issues cannot physically hurt or kill you (this is not just specific to social anxiety disorder). However, this is not true; when people experience intense emotions as a result of their mental health it can have physiological effects such as: increased chances of heart disease, palpitations, sweating, dizziness, chest pain, skin irritation and rashes, fatigue and insomnia, nausea, weight loss, obesity, diarrhea, headaches, muscle aches, chills or hot flushes and for some, their mental health issues lead to suicide. There are many physical responses to mental health issues that are not mentioned here.

It may be assumed that people will be able to get over their social anxiety on their own or that the fears are a phase that will fade over time. Although some people may be able to recover on their own, for the majority of people who experience mental health issues such as social anxiety, their disorders will not suddenly disappear, and if the disorder is ignored and untreated then it may worsen and become harder to cope with.

How to help
Accessing talking therapies is widely encouraged for any mental health issues; this can come in the form of one-to-one counselling, group counselling or peer support groups. Talking therapies gives people the opportunity to be able to discuss their problems, receive other view points on their situations, receive guidance through coping techniques, challenge negative thoughts in a safe environment, and it allows people to share their experiences. Mental health issues can be difficult to overcome on your own and so by receiving that extra support can make a difference in recovery.

However, due to the nature of social anxiety disorder, some people may find it too daunting to seek help. Therefore, there are some self-help strategies people can use before they seek help with their social anxiety disorder.

Learn about social anxiety – the more people know about their mental health issues, the more they will understand how to cope with them. There are many forms of information on the internet and in books that people can use to get more understanding of their disorder, if they feel too uncomfortable talking with someone about it.

Challenge negative thoughts – when a situation arises that causes the individual distress, it is important that they consider why they find it distressing. Negative thoughts can catastrophise and forecast negative outcomes of a situation that may not hold any truth but can still cause intense distress and anxiety. These negative thoughts can cause people to avoid a situation or to experience it as negative because they had already decided in their head that that was going to happen. Challenging these thoughts can help the person have a rational and healthy outlook on the situation.

Be positive – thoughts can sometimes decide how a person will experience a situation. For example, if someone assumed that they would have a bad experience of a situation then they will have a bad experience of it. Our thoughts influence our behaviours, so if we go assuming the worst, our behaviours will reflect that which will then reinforce the idea of the situation being a negative one. Whereas, if a person in the same situation went assuming they will have a positive experience, they will approach the situation feeling positive and their behaviours will follow.

Create a fear hierarchy – this is where someone writes a list of feared situations starting with least scary to most scary, then proceeding though each situation in their own time and as many times as needed until the familiarity with the situation helps to reduce the anxiety response.
Try to do more things that you would usually avoid – it is easy to get into a habit of avoiding challenging situations as it is the easier route. However, avoiding situations reinforces the idea that they are too much to cope with and does not allow you to prove to yourself that you can cope with situations. Additionally, much like the ‘list of fears’ technique, becoming familiar with situations can help ease the anxiety.

Breathe – breathing exercises can help with the physical responses to stress. Deep breaths can help control quick and rapid breaths, minimise shaking and by inhaling more oxygen can slow down heart rate.

Distraction techniques – when people experience intense emotions from their mental health that they cannot calm down from, it may be that taking their mind off their issues is what is best. This is not to say that people should ignore their emotions, but distraction tasks can allow the individual to calm down which will put them in a better frame of mind to be able to confront the problem. Distraction tasks can include: walking, exercising, drawing, painting, reading, doing house work, watching something on television, doing puzzles or any activity that occupies the mind and shifts focus to something else that is enjoyable.

There are many other possible coping techniques that people can use, it is important that people find what works best for them so that they have their coping strategies at the ready when they are faced with a possible trigger.