What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety involves fears about interacting with others because of concerns about being judged or behaving in a way that is embarrassing or humiliating. People with social anxiety either avoid social situations. Or if they do endure them they feel extremely anxious and often participate in a restricted or reserved way (for example, they might avoid one-on-one conversations or avoid people that aren’t familiar).

Social anxiety can arise in all sorts of situations including:

  • Meeting new people
  • Starting a new job
  • Travelling
  • Speaking to staff in shops or restaurants
  • Asking for help
  • Being in unfamiliar environments
  • At social events with people you already know
Client receiving social anxiety treatment with a psychologist and a loved one

How common is social anxiety?

Research studies indicate that in any 12-month period 4.7% of Australians experience Social Anxiety Disorder, making it one of the most common anxiety disorders.

Social anxiety signs and symptoms

Social anxiety can trigger a number of physical symptoms including:

  • Racing heart
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Blushing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Difficulties with breathing

When a person feels extremely anxious they may experience symptoms of a panic attack.

Typical thoughts that accompanying social anxiety include:

  • “I’m boring”
  • “I’m awkward”
  • “I’ll make a fool out of myself”
  • “People don’t like spending time with me”
  • “What if I offend someone?”
  • “What if I run out of things to say?”
  • “Other people are much more interesting than me”
  • “Nobody else seems to feel anxious in social situations”
  • “People can tell that I’m anxious”

Some of the ways that social anxiety affects people’s behaviour includes:

  • Completely avoiding social situations
  • Holding back during conversations for fear of offending someone, saying something embarrassing or not being interesting
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs to reduce anxiety
  • Avoiding interactions with people who are not familiar
  • Avoiding one-on-one conversations
  • Always or often bringing a friend or family member along to social situations
  • Avoiding speaking up in a group situation
  • Making excuses to leave social situations early or spending time in the bathroom or away from the situation in order to manage or take a break from the anxiety

We can help you overcome social anxiety with treatment

Social anxiety can leave you feeling empty and alone. If you’ve been feeling this way for a while, you might even feel like there’s not much you can do to improve how you feel. You don’t have to feel this way forever though. With social anxiety treatment, we’ll help you to overcome your anxiety using tried and tested approaches, at a pace that feels right for you.

Let’s get started. Book an appointment today.