Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC
Social anxiety is a persistent form of anxiety or fear that can form in social situations. It is a common disorder that affects people of all ages. Someone with social anxiety may feel irrationally anxious about being judged or embarrassed in social situations. These situations can range from being trivial to meaningful.
Everyone has experienced certain amounts of anxiety in social situations. Whether it’s speaking to people on a stage or meeting new people. However, for someone with social anxiety, this anxiety is persistent and can negatively interfere in their day to day life, and may make it very hard to engage in social situations.
It is important to recognize if overwhelming anxiety in social situations is impacting your everyday life and well-being. Starting the journey to recovery can help you reach your true potential in many aspects of your life. The first step toward recovery may be taking an acute social anxiety disorder test. While it is important to note that a social disorder test does not replace medical help from a professional, it may make you more aware of your symptoms and serve as an important first step.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is often characterized as a long-term, overwhelming fear of social situations that can interfere with everyday activities, work, and relationships. Social anxiety is often referred to as social phobia or social anxiety disorder.
Most social anxiety stems from concerns with other people’s thoughts about oneself. Social anxiety is more than shyness or introversion; and it is a fear that doesn’t go away easily.
A lot of people experience anxiety in social situations. Still, this worry is out of proportion to the level of threat that the social situation presents for someone with a social anxiety disorder. For example, a person with social anxiety may be thrown into a panic because they mispronounced a word, stuttered, or made a joke that didn’t make people laugh. This can lead to people even avoiding places or certain events because of the fear of being embarrassed or meeting new people.
Social anxiety can often begin in childhood or teen years and develop into adulthood. It may also develop much later in life. Social anxiety may stem from limited social opportunities, overprotective parents, stress, and/ or environmental factors. It may also be associated with a specific event(s) in someone’s life, such as bullying.
Social anxiety can lead to excessive fear and anxiety in situations such as:
- Public speaking
- Parties and social gatherings
- Eating or drinking in public
- Using public restrooms
- Speaking on the phone
Social anxiety can arise in a large range of situations, and the situations that cause anxiety can also be dependent on the sub-type of social anxiety.
Social anxiety is usually divided into two subtypes. These are generalized social anxiety disorder and non-generalized social anxiety disorder. Generalized social anxiety disorder is associated with a fear of most social situations, regardless of the forum or environment.
Non-generalized social anxiety disorder means the person fears a more limited and specific number of situations. People with non-generalized social anxiety disorder may only have performance anxiety. Singing or speaking on a stage, playing a sports game in front of an audience, or dancing can be triggers for performance anxiety.
Do I Have Social Anxiety?
Many social situations, including those listed above, can trigger symptoms in someone with a social anxiety disorder. These symptoms can vary from one person to another.
Some of the most common physical, social anxiety symptoms that can occur in social situations include:
- Sweating and blushing
- Fast heart rate
- Panic attacks or feelings of panic
- Rigid body posture
- Very soft speaking voice
- Trouble making eye contact
- Shaking, usually hands and legs
- A churning feeling in the stomach
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms relating to emotions and thoughts include:
- Having difficulty talking to people, especially strangers
- Having an intense fear of judgment
- Low self-esteem
- Fear of showing anxiety or fear of performance
Social Anxiety In Children
Social anxiety is a common disorder that can occur in people of all ages. Social anxiety manifests differently in children. They may not understand that their fears are irrational, the way some adults might. In children, the symptoms can differ slightly and may include:
- Crying more than usual
- Inability to speak in social situations
- Fear of going to school
- High reliance on parents or care-taker
- Difficulty asking for help in class
- Difficulty participating in peer activities such as sports
While one may experience social anxiety symptoms, there are also further criteria that are considered in determining whether someone has a social anxiety disorder.
Some of these criteria include:
- Symptoms that persist for at least six months in individuals under 18
- Persistent fear in one or more social situations where the person is exposed to people that aren’t familiar.
- The anxiety cannot be due to the effects of medication or alcohol.
Many people with social anxiety can have or can be at a higher risk for other mental health issues. These may include depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. It is important to recognize the symptoms of social anxiety disorder and seek professional help. Social anxiety disorder can be very detrimental to the overall quality of life, but it is treatable through the right resources.
What A Severe Social Anxiety Test Can Tell You
A social anxiety disorder test or quiz can be effective in understanding your symptoms. Understanding your symptoms can be the first step towards seeking help. Recognizing whether you may have a social anxiety disorder or not can begin with taking a test for social anxiety, which can help you seek the right professional help for your difficulties if required.
If you believe you or someone you care about may have social anxiety, this social anxiety symptoms test may help you gain some clarity and give you helpful information.
It is important to note that social phobia tests are not an official diagnosis and do not replace consultation with a licensed medical professional.
Ways To Navigate Social Anxiety
Those with social anxiety often develop certain safety habits and behaviors that may seem like they make you feel temporarily less anxious in social situations.
Such behaviors include:
- Using alcohol or other substances for increasing confidence
- Choosing to keep quiet in conversations
- Avoiding eye contact
- This can include rehearsing what you will say, even in situations where it is not usually necessary, like a social gathering.
- Removing yourself from a situation by avoiding being part of a group or trying to find a way to seem busy
Even though these behaviors may feel like they are helpful in the moment, they often can make things worse.
Additionally, choosing to remain quiet in social gatherings can mean that you aren’t involved in many conversations, and people may not speak to you. This can reinforce your ideas again and make you believe that you aren’t liked by other people. Your own behavior may begin fulfilling your own beliefs, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you believe you are experiencing social anxiety symptoms, there are ways you can try to manage your symptoms in stressful situations. These methods do not replace treatment and recommendations from a licensed mental health professional but are rather small steps you can take in your daily life for your own well-being when needed.
- Try Relaxation Techniques. Focusing on your breathing and relaxing your muscles can help calm your nerves in situations that trigger social anxiety.
- Do Not use Or Depend On Alcohol Or Other Substances. Constant use as a coping mechanism can lead to serious consequences. Dependency on these substances can cause great long term harm and hinder you from seeking true help.
- Try To Reframe Your Way Of Thinking. Often when you have social anxiety, your negative thoughts are guesses and not facts. It is nearly impossible to accurately guess what other people are thinking.
- Recognize Your Safety Behaviors. These behaviors are often in place when someone with social anxiety believes that a situation is unsafe somehow. Identifying what is causing fear in a situation can help assess your safety behaviors. Slowly reducing these behaviors can help you realize that situations you fear may not be as bad as you think they are.
- Writing Things Down Or Journaling. Observing what situations cause fear and your safety behaviors to cope with it can help you understand yourself better. Writing things down can be cathartic regardless of the kind of anxiety you are experiencing, as it can serve as an effective outlet for your thoughts.
Social anxiety can impact many important aspects of your life. Whether it’s your career, relationships with the people around you, or your own mental health. However, it is treatable!
Managing your social anxiety can begin with recognizing your irrational or disproportionate fears and taking the time to understand why you feel that way. Taking a social anxiety test and researching your own symptoms can be a great step towards understanding your anxieties. If symptoms persist, seeking professional help and guidance can be very helpful.
Just taking the first step in understanding your difficulties can go a long way. Taking a social anxiety quiz and finding the right help to manage your symptoms can put you on the road to recovery and help you fulfill your true potential. Once you take the social anxiety or social disorder test, you can become aware of the common symptoms and potentially pursue further treatment.