Definition

social anxiety definitionIt’s normal to feel nervous and awkward in some social situations.

Going on a first date or giving a presentation may give you that uncomfortable feeling of having butterflies in your stomach, for instance.

For some people, though, common, everyday social situations cause extreme anxiety, fear and self-consciousness, and they may become impossible to engage in.

You may go to great lengths and come up with many excuses to avoid dating or giving presentations.

You may not even be able to eat with acquaintances or write a check at the grocery store, let alone go to a party with lots of strangers.

With anxiety this extreme, you may have social anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition that causes an irrational anxiety or fear of activities or situations in which you believe that others are watching you or judging you. You also fear that you’ll embarrass or humiliate yourself.

If you or a loved one has social anxiety disorder, take heart.

Effective treatment — often with cognitive behavior therapy, medication and positive coping skills — can improve your quality of life and open up new opportunities.

Symptoms

Social anxiety disorder can have emotional, behavioral and physical signs and symptoms.

Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

* Intense fear of being in situations in which you don’t know people
* Fear of situations in which you may be judged
* Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
* Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
* Anxiety that disrupts your daily routine, work, school or other activities
* Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
* Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention

Physical signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

* Blushing
* Profuse sweating
* Trembling or shaking
* Nausea
* Stomach upset
* Difficulty talking
* Shaky voice
* Muscle tension
* Confusion
* Palpitations
* Diarrhea
* Cold, clammy hands
* Difficulty making eye contact

Associated characteristics include:

* Low self-esteem
* Trouble being assertive
* Negative self-talk
* Hypersensitivity to criticism
* Poor social skills

Worrying about having symptoms

When you have social anxiety disorder, you realize that your anxiety or fear is out of proportion to the situation.

Yet you’re so worried about developing social anxiety disorder symptoms that you avoid situations that may trigger them.

And indeed, just worrying about having any symptoms can cause them or make them worse.

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