How do you know if you have social anxiety?
Social Anxiety is a very common disorder. Like many psychiatric diagnoses, it's defined by a group of symptoms that commonly occur together. We've listed the top symptoms below to help provide a better idea of how doctors define social anxiety. If you have some or most of these symptoms, there is a good chance you may have some form of social anxiety.
1. Fear of "Normal" Social Situations
While we can all feel a bit nervous about giving a big presentation or a wedding toast, social anxiety is an excessive, sometimes crippling fear, that gets in the way of living life and causes significant distress.
Patients with social anxiety are often anxious about routine or otherwise normal social situations. These include public speaking, conversations, and meeting new people.
Often, eating or drinking in a group can also induce anxiety from the fear of embarassing one's self while eating or drinking when others are potentially watching.
2. Anxiety About Embarassment
These fears are often of potential judgement and humiliation from others. It's not so much the fear of spilling food or wine on oneself, rather its the fear of others seeing it and laughing at them or judging them for their poor manners.
Additionally, individuals can be anxious about being anxious. From past experiences, individuals with social anxiety may fear that they will get noticable symptoms of anxiety, including sweating or trembling. They can become hypervigilent about these symptoms. They may fear that others will notice these symptoms and judge them for it, further adding to their anxiety.
Individuals with social anxiety are often aware that they have excessive fears, beyond normal "jitters" or nervousness. They will however still go out of their way to avoid these situations and to avoid the possiblity of public humiliation, embrassment, or judgement from others.
Because of this avoidance, social anxiety can often have significant impacts on an individual's social and professional life.
Medical Symptoms of Social Anxiety
The anxiety an individual feels within can manifest itself as medical symptoms as well. These symptoms include trembling, when you feel your muscles tremble and shake uncontrollably, and sweating. Individuals can feel their hearts beat faster or pumping out of their chest. They may also feel a rush of blood to their face and start blushing.
During the social event, individuals with social anxiety can often experience a surge of anxiety that can take the form of a panic attack.
During a panic attack, these symptoms can come on suddenly within minutes causing significant distress. And, as stated above, anxiety about these symptoms can add on to the overall anxiety about the situation.
3 Ways to Handle a Panic Attack
When you feel a panic attack coming, there are 3 ways of handling it that are backed by science.
Take slow, deep breaths. The symptoms of panic attacks are partly due to your body reacting to you breathing too much, or hyperventilating. By taking slower, deeper breaths, your body has a chance to readjust and return to normal. A study showed that just by training patients to breath better, doctors were able to significant reduce panic attacks.
Relax your muscles: More specifically, tense, hold, and release the muscles in your body one by one. We don't exactly know why this works, but it works for many people.
Mindfulness: Becoming self-aware about the situation and understanding that this, along with every other anxious situation you've experienced in the past, will pass, can help. Focusing on your breathing, and thinking about what's happening from an external perspective can help. Mindfulness is one of the best known ways of handling anxiety.