It's common to get a little nervous or shy when we feel in the spotlight, like when meeting new people or giving an important speech or performance. While these feelings can be overwhelming, they usually pass once we feel more comfortable, or when the performance is over. But if it feels like the fear of being scrutinised or judged is taking over your life, you may be experiencing social anxiety.

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is the result of extreme anxiety in social situations and stems from the fear of being judged, rejected, humiliated or criticised by others. You might have trouble talking to people, whether that’s old friends, new friends or your workmates, or find it stressful to attend parties or events. Sometimes the anxiety can become so intense that a person starts avoiding any social situations that might trigger anxiety. This avoidance increases the chance of going on to develop social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia.

What to look out for?

It's normal to sometimes feel anxious in social situations. However, when you have social anxiety, you have a constant fear of being judged, embarrassed or humiliated.

Symptoms of social anxiety can be generalised across lots of social settings, or may be specific to a few triggering situations. When people with social anxiety think about or engage in social interactions, they might notice the following symptoms:

  • Blushing

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhoea

  • Excessive sweating

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Stammering or difficulty speaking

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Worrying about being judged, embarrassed, criticised or humiliated

  • Worrying that other people will notice you are stressed or nervous

  • Needing alcohol or other substances to face a social situation

In an effort to avoid feeling anxious, people may try to avoid social situations, which can start to restrict their life. Common situations people avoid include:

  • Asking a question

  • Going for a job interview

  • Shopping

  • Using public restrooms

  • Talking on the phone

  • Eating in public

  • Attending parties or events

Managing social anxiety

Social anxiety disorder is common and treatable.

Psychological therapy

The most common psychological treatment for social anxiety is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). CBT helps you learn how to manage anxiety, how to gradually face social situations that you've been avoiding, and how to reframe your thinking. CBT can be delivered face to face in an individual therapy session, as part of a group therapy session, or online in a variety of formats.

Healthy lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce anxiety. Exercise regularly. Try to Get around 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Reduce or avoid stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks, and caffeinated soft drinks. Limit your intake of alcohol or other substances that might negatively impact your mood and health. Try to make time for enjoyable and relaxing activities.

Social anxiety doesn’t have to rule your life. Although it may take time, it's possible for you to feel more calm and more confident when speaking with other people, attending parties and when speaking in groups.

If you think you’re suffering from social anxiety, contact Sonder if you would like some immediate support, or make an appointment with your doctor.

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If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: Healthline, HealthDirect and Beyond Blue

Image credit: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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