I’m making it a point to talk more about social anxiety, or social phobia here, and I think it’s important to address what it really is, and not just ways to deal with it, or how to overcome social anxiety. There are many conversations we desperately need to have about mental illnesses as a society, and I hope my blog can help open some of those doors. Feel free to share if you feel this resonates with you.
I am not a doctor, and I am not here to diagnose anyone. This is simply a guide to some common signs of social anxiety. If you think you have this, I suggest getting a doctor’s opinion.
I used to think that being fearful and worried whenever I was about to be in a social situation (or often thinking about a future social situation) was normal. I thought everyone got nervous on the first day of school or work, and it was nothing to be concerned about. I would fear neighborhood walks, getting my nails done, calling my insurance, and even going to a restaurant. But there was always a good reason. What if someone was afraid of my dog, wanted to steal my baby, or tell me that I’m stupid to think my insurance would cover a routine procedure? It all seemed logical to me, and since there is a huge mental health stigma in America, I had no idea how common it is to feel this way. It wasn’t until I realized I could be hurting my childrens’ outlook on life that I decided I needed to find out what all of this meant. I found out that it’s not normal to be afraid to talk to people, or spend hours every day reviewing everything you said in a conversation and mentally beating yourself up for any slight misstep. It’s also not normal to cry before your kid’s first day of school because you’re nervous to talk to other moms, not because you’re proud they’re growing up.
So like my typical self, I did research. I mean for HOURS. I wanted to know everything there is to know about social anxiety disorder, why I have social anxiety, where it comes from, is it hereditary or a learned trait? I am not one to keep all my research to myself, mostly because Social Anxiety Disorder is something 15,000,000 Americans deal with every day. If that’s not scary enough, the average person diagnosed goes TEN YEARS with symptoms before seeking help. Here’s what I found. I think if you can relate to what you’ve seen above, you’ll benefit from this list.
Physical Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a type of anxiety, so it will present with a lot of the same symptoms as other forms of anxiety. Usually social anxiety only shows up when you’re in a social setting or if there is a get together approaching and you’re afraid to participate in it. Some of the physical symptoms are sweating, blushing, increased heart rate, trembling and shaking. It depends on the person, some physical symptoms can be as mild as butterflies in your stomach, or muscle twitches, or as serious as hyperventilating and feeling like you’re on the verge of a heart attack. These are also signs of a panic attack, which can happen often when in social situations with social anxiety.
Physical symptoms are easier for someone else to see, but emotional and psychological symptoms are usually more prevalent than physical symptoms. Think about how you feel and what you think when you get into social situations. Do you suddenly have an intense worry when walking into a crowded Starbucks? Perhaps you become easily embarrassed when someone calls out to you across a room. Those are signs you may have social anxiety. Some of the more common symptoms are a constant fear of being judged, thinking you’re going to be humiliated, avoiding talking to others, being fearful that someone will notice your anxiety, or even worse, they’ll want to talk to you about it. Physical and emotional symptoms are not the only way to tell if you have social anxiety.
You may also notice you have social anxiety when you practice avoidance. This is when you find yourself constantly avoiding people or situations, such as never going to mommy and me classes, or out with other moms even though you like their company, or canceling plans with family or friends. It isn’t the people inviting you, but the thought that others will be there and getting into a situation that makes you fearful of what might happen. If you are too afraid to pursue a friendship because you fear all the embarrassing things you might do or say, that can also be social anxiety. Pay attention to all signs, whether obvious or subtle and keep track of them.
You may also find this post useful:
Four Amazing Ways to Treat Social Anxiety Naturally.
Good luck in your journey, friend.