Learning More About Social Anxiety

Related Emotional Disturbances: AnxietyStress Panic Attacks

What does social anxiety disorder feel like?

Tim is a college student who struggles with many aspects of attending school. He has a passion for his major and he enjoys researching the subject; however, when it comes to interacting socially, Tim feels horribly anxious. He often skips his class lectures out of a fear of being called on. Even though he knows the material, the thought of addressing that many people terrifies him. He has difficulty asking questions of and talking to his peers. He fears that they may find him boring or uninteresting. Class presentations are impossible for Tim, and more than once, he has made up excuses to avoid them. In the past, when he has attempted to make a presentation, he has experienced physical issues such as shortness of breath, dizziness, tunnel vision, shaking hands, and trembling lips. Tim has always been shy, yet he feels that his fears are taking over his life, and he worries that he won’t be able to accomplish his goals unless something changes.

Tim suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder. Though many people feel varying degrees of anxiety when relating to others, those with Social Anxiety are often incapacitated by certain aspects of social interaction. Social Anxiety extends beyond shyness; it can limit the social lives, education, and even the career choices of those who suffer from it.

The unifying characteristic in social anxiety disorder is a fear of performing poorly in social situations and suffering from embarrassment or humiliation. By definition, social situations mean interacting with or performing for other people and being under their potential scrutiny. If a socially anxious individual's performance is found 'lacking' in some way, he often says to himself, "How embarrassing" or "How humiliating." This fear of embarrassment or humiliation causes these individuals to either avoid those situations altogether, or suffer extreme anxiety as they endure them.

Their lives can be further complicated by anticipatory fear of upcoming social encounters. As socially anxious individuals anticipate or become involved in social encounters, they experience an increase in troublesome physical symptoms which may include heart palpitations, trembling, sweating, and flushing or blushing. These indicators of anxiety may often repeat in an uncomfortable cycle that is difficult to control.

In addition, social anxiety sufferers worry that their anxiety or awkwardness will become even more obvious, and this, in turn, leads to feelings of shame as well as further embarrassment and humiliation.


Related Topics:
Stress, Anxiety, Panic Attacks

Learning More At The Health Center:

How common is social anxiety?
What causes social anxiety?
How can social anxiety affect my life?
Frequent Questions about Social Anxiety

*Portions of this informational resource have been adapted from The Health Center