Social anxiety


Some people can feel extremely anxious when they are with other people.  They believe that other people will judge them in a negative way.  They often believe that they will humiliate or embarrass themselves in front of others.  This can make them feel very self-conscious.

Social anxiety can be based around one specific situation, such as speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of other people.  It can also be more general and the person can become anxious every time they have contact with other people.

When they are in a social situation, a socially anxious person experiences physical effects of anxiety such as

  • rapid heartbeat
  • sweating
  • shaking or blushing.

Their mouth may go dry and they may find it hard to speak.

Socially anxious people often have thoughts like:

‘I’ll make a fool of myself’ 

‘I will sound stupid’ 

‘Everyone can see I’m nervous’ 

Often, social situations are avoided completely. Sometimes, people drink more alcohol in social situations to feel more confident.  They may try to cover up the anxiety by avoiding eye contact or staying quiet.

A vicious circle of physical feelings of anxiety, negative thoughts/ images and avoidance behaviours often develops.  This can lead the person to feel trapped in the social anxiety.  To get over social anxiety, it helps to learn coping strategies to break the vicious cycle.

Shyness and Social Anxiety - a Self help Guide (NHS Forth Valley)

Anxiety and panic attacks

Books that can help

Relaxation exercises


Self esteem


Centre for clinical interventions free self help module Coping with Social Anxiety.