People who experience social anxiety (sometimes known as ‘social phobia’) have the belief that other people will judge them in a negative way. The person with social anxiety feels very self-conscious when with other people, and often believes they will humiliate or embarrass themselves in front of others.
Social anxiety can be based around one specific situation, such as speaking out in informal or formal situations, or eating or drinking in front of other people. It can also be more general and the person becomes anxious every time they have contact with other people.
When a socially anxious person is in a social situation, physical symptoms of anxiety are experienced, such as rapid heart beat, sweating, shaking or blushing. Negative thoughts such as ‘I’ll make a fool of myself’ or “I will sound stupid’ or ‘Everyone can see I’m nervous’ are experienced. Often, social situations are avoided completely. Sometimes, people drink more alcohol in social situations to feel more confident, or try to cover up the anxiety by avoiding eye contact or staying quiet. A vicious circle of physical feelings, thoughts/ images and behaviours often develops, and the person can feel trapped in the social anxiety. To get over social anxiety, it helps to learn coping strategies to break the vicious cycle.
Social Phobia can lead to agrophobia which is an avoidance of certain places and can lead to an intense fear of leaving the home.
The Centre for Clinical Interventions provide a free self help module - Coping with Social Anxiety.
Further resources can be found on the right.