Certain social situations can make even the best of us feel a little jittery. Whether it’s an upcoming job interview, meeting new people, or giving a presentation, it’s normal to feel a little anxious in such situations.
But for some people, the fear of social situations can be chronic and debilitating, impacting every aspect of their lives. If you’re constantly worrying about being judged or embarrassed in social situations, you may have social anxiety disorder.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also referred to as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme or overwhelming fear in social situations. People with SAD often worry about being judged, criticized, or humiliated in social settings. As a result, they may avoid social situations altogether or endure them with great anxiety and discomfort.
SAD can affect people of all ages and typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood. It is estimated that 15 million adults in the United States live with social anxiety disorder, making it one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders.
How to Know You Have Social Anxiety Disorder?
If you have social anxiety disorder, the fear of social situations can be so debilitating that it interferes with your work, school, and personal relationships. Below are some common symptoms of SAD:
You Worry For Weeks About Upcoming Events
Do you find yourself obsessing over upcoming social events? If you have SAD, the thought of having to interact with other people can be so overwhelming that it starts to consume your thoughts days or even weeks in advance. You may begin to feel physically ill as the event gets closer.
You Experience Physical Symptoms in Social Situations
When you’re in a social situation, do you experience physical symptoms such as sweating, racing heart, or shaking? These are all common physical manifestations of social anxiety. You may also feel like you can’t catch your breath or like you’re going to faint or vomit.
You Avoid Social Situations
Because of the fear and anxiety that social situations cause, people with SAD often go to great lengths to avoid them. You may turn down invitations to parties or other gatherings, cancel plans at the last minute, or make up excuses to leave social situations early.
You’re Have Difficulty Initiating or Maintaining a Conversation
If you have social anxiety, you may find yourself feeling tongue-tied or like you can’t think of anything to say even if you’re interested in the conversation. As a result, you may come across as shy, aloof, or even arrogant. People with social anxiety may also find it hard to make or keep eye contact.
You Dwell on Your Mistakes or Re-live Embarrassing Moments
Do you tend to dwell on your mistakes or re-live embarrassing moments over and over in your mind, even long after they’ve happened? People with social anxiety tend to be overly self-critical about their performance in social situations. You may beat yourself up for days or even weeks after a social interaction that didn’t go as well as you had hoped.
You Have Difficulty Making Friends or Keeping Friendships
Because of the difficulty initiating and maintaining conversation, people with social anxiety often have difficulty making friends or keeping friendships. They may come across as uninterested or even unfriendly. This can also make it hard to form and maintain relationships.
You Worry About Being Judged or Rejected
When you have social anxiety, you may believe that others are constantly judging and critiquing you. As a result, you may go to great lengths to try to impress others or be a perfectionist in your behavior. You may also worry that you will be rejected by others because you are not “good enough.”
The Bottom Line
If you have been experiencing some or all of the above signs, you may have social anxiety disorder. Luckily, social anxiety is a highly treatable condition; with proper diagnosis and treatment, you can live a healthy, anxiety-free life. If you’re worried about your symptoms, talk to your doctor or mental health professional about your treatment options.