Social anxiety - causes, symptoms and treatment

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2 years ago

Social anxiety or social phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that represents an irrational fear of social situations in which a person may be observed or negatively assessed by other people.

This fear is most often expressed in situations where the opinion of others is very important to the person, and as many as 4% of people have this serious problem.

Each of us has sometimes experienced discomfort or anxiety in some unfamiliar social situation, especially when it comes to public appearance or exposure. However, if a person has felt extreme anxiety or unbearable fear, it is still something more serious.

A person may be aware that this fear is irrational, but he cannot resist that feeling so the only way is to avoid such situations. Although thoughts are dysfunctional and distorted at the time, it should be borne in mind that a person cannot change this immediately.

Situations "triggers" for social anxiety

Often people think they are alone in this problem, but it is not. There are many situations that can cause social anxiety (or social phobia) and lead you to think that you will be embarrassed and behave in ways that will make others think badly of you, and some of them are:

  • Public appearance or presentation in front of an audience.

  • When you're in the spotlight.

  • Phone calls with strangers.

  • Oral exams and tests.

  • Talking to important people or authorities.

  • Parties and similar social gatherings,

  • Dating.

  • Meeting new people.

Causes of social anxiety

Although there are several theoretical beliefs about the causes of social anxiety or social phobia, some experts believe that it is a learned behavior thus emphasizing environmental factors.

Others believe that the biggest problem is in the experience of irrational thoughts, thus classifying everything as psychological factors, and still others find the biological and genetic basis of this underdeveloped social skills. Each of the theories has its own explanation, but they are not mutually exclusive.

Psychological factors

Let’s say you really found yourself in some awkward situation that later made you negatively assessed and embarrassed. You will probably consider a second time whether to engage in any situation similar to the original so as not to experience discomfort again.

However, this does not necessarily mean that you have solved all the problems. It is only a short-term relief that reinforces social anxiety by delaying coping with one’s own fear.

Environmental factors

Furthermore, you may not have found yourself in an awkward situation at all, but you have only over time adopted the belief that everyone around you needs to be liked and accepted.

That is why you avoid any social situation that could lead to negative consequences and you unreasonably expect that you will surely be ashamed if you allow yourself to go among people.

This is very wrong because you can't practice your social skills in your environment, you only make it even harder.

You can also develop social anxiety by observing the behavior of others and noticing their negative consequences.

Biological factors

Of course, various studies have also indicated a genetic effect. Allegedly, people with social anxiety had very close relatives with the same problems. There is also an increased sensitivity and activity of the amygdala, a brain structure that is responsible for experiencing the emotion of fear.

Social anxiety (social phobia) may be associated with unbalanced levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for feelings of happiness and good mood.

Symptoms of social anxiety

Symptoms of social anxiety or social phobia can simultaneously be experienced emotionally, manifest physically, and change a person's behavior.

Emotional symptoms

  • Irrational fear of negative evaluation and social gatherings.

  • Excessive anxiety in everyday situations.

  • Excessive self-awareness.

  • Extreme fear of possible embarrassment and humiliation.

  • Withdrawal and a feeling of loneliness.

  • Nervousness.

Physical symptoms

  • Sweating palms.

  • Dizziness.

  • Headache.

  • Flushing.

  • Rapid heartbeat.

  • Trembling voice.

  • Stuttering and speech delays.

Behavioral symptoms

  • Postponing meetings with others.

  • Avoiding social situations and going out in public.

  • Hiding from other people to avoid embarrassment.

  • Limiting social activities and impairing the quality of life.

  • Inability to make new friendships.

  • Closing in on oneself.

Diagnosis of social anxiety

In order to diagnose social anxiety (social phobia), all aspects of social life should be considered. A person must experience high levels of anxiety in social situations that create such a level of discomfort that their daily functioning is disrupted.

Avoiding appearing in public places narrows the quality of social and business life and blocks a person from achieving their goals. The most severe cases of social anxiety lead to complete loneliness, unemployment, alcohol or drug addiction, and depression.

Treatment of social anxiety

Social anxiety or social phobia is the easiest and fastest way to cure if diagnosed in time. When things get complicated or when a person gets into even more serious problems such as depression and addictions, treatment is difficult and time consuming.

The most effective methods of treatment are cognitive-behavioral therapy and taking medications prescribed by psychiatrists (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.).

Cognitive-behavioral therapy wants to free a person from dysfunctional and irrational thoughts and gradually confront them with fear in order to develop social skills. Everything takes place gradually and with the help of a therapist who approaches everyone in an individual way.

How to overcome social phobia

  • Deal gradually with situations that cause you fear and discomfort.

  • If you are not currently ready to expose yourself to some social situations, try to imagine them first by focusing only on the positive that could happen.

  • Practice relaxation techniques and use them daily to calm down and alleviate physical symptoms (e.g., calm music for relaxation, physical activity, nature walks, controlling breathing, etc.).

  • Think positive and give up the belief that you have to please everyone.

  • Work on developing social and communication skills to boost self-confidence in meeting people.

Interesting facts

It is believed that there are gender differences in this disorder, ie that social anxiety (social phobia) is statistically significantly more common in women than in men.

Social anxiety (social phobia) most often occurs in childhood and adolescence when we are most aware of ourselves and other people and when we establish the most social connections. The onset of social anxiety after the age of 25 is very rare.

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2 years ago


Thanks for the great article. My son is anxious and has a big problem all his life in socialization.

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2 years ago

Do well to talk to him. He'll change

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2 years ago

Situations "triggers" for social anxiety

Often people think they are alone in this problem, but it is not. There are many situations that can cause social anxiety (or social phobia) and lead you to think that you will be embarrassed and behave in ways that will make others think badly of you, and some of them are:

Public appearance or presentation in front of an audience.

$ 0.00
2 years ago