Are You Struggling With Social Anxiety? How to Identify & Helpful Ways to Overcome

By Krista


Last Updated: March 2, 2022

As many places begin lifting pandemic restrictions, it’s easy to feel a variety of different feelings. You might feel excited, nervous, anxious, and relieved all at the same time. In truth, it can feel pretty overwhelming. 

And for those of us that haven’t socialized in a while… The anxiety might feel all too real. After all, it’s been years since we’ve had any “normal” social gatherings. It can feel foreign and odd to be around new people or to be gathering in larger groups than we’re used to. 

So, if you’re struggling with social anxiety — or think you might be — this article is for you! We’re going to dive into what it is, the types, the causes, and how you can manage it in your life.


How Do You Know if You Have Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety refers to how everyday interactions can lead to fear, anxiety, embarrassment, and even avoidance (such as avoiding social situations due to fear and anxiety). Inevitably, not everyone has a social anxiety disorder. In fact, social discomfort or anxiety in certain situations is completely normal.

So, what sets it apart from regular-day nerves? How do you know if you have it? Below, we take a look at a few of the symptoms, helping you determine if it is what you’re feeling.

Related Article: If You Struggle With Social Anxiety, This Is For You


Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Some common symptoms include:

  • Worrying about everyday interactions, such as speaking on the phone or conversing with the cashier when shopping
  • Avoiding social activities due to fear or anxiety
  • Worrying about embarrassing yourself
  • Struggling when others watch you and assuming you’re being judged
  • Fear of eye contact or being criticized
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling sick, pounding heart, sweating, or trembling during social situations
  • Panic attacks

Interestingly, individuals with social anxiety also tend to have other mental health disorders, such as depression, panic disorders, or a generalized anxiety disorder.


Types of Social Anxiety

Experts tend to agree that there are two main distinctions between types of social anxiety disorders. In generalized anxiety disorders, individuals tend to fear the majority of social situations. In non-generalized anxiety disorders, individuals often only fear specific social situations, such as public speaking or talking on the phone. 

Generalized anxiety more frequently leads to disruption in a person’s life, since they may avoid any social gathering or any situation outside their comfort zone (such as their home). Yet, there are all types of social anxieties.

What is An Example of Social Anxiety? 

Some common examples of social anxiety include:

  • Talking with strangers
  • Speeches
  • Meeting new people
  • Inviting others or initiating social events
  • Attending social events
  • Expressing your opinion
  • Talking to friends
  • Talking on the phone
  • Participating in meetings
  • Dating
  • Job interviews

If any of the above or similar situations lead to anxious feelings, you might be experiencing social anxiety. So, why does this happen in the first place?


What Are the Main Causes of Social Anxiety?

You might be more prone if:

  • Someone in your family, such as your parents or siblings, have it
  • You were rejected, bullied, teased, or humiliated as a child
  • You experienced negative and traumatic events, such as abuse or family conflict
  • You recently started a new job, moved to a new place, or have an upcoming important presentation or event
  • You have a condition that triggers it, such as stuttering, tremors, or disfigurement

Additionally, it’s thought that individuals with social anxiety may have an overactive amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for the fear response, which can cause increased anxiety in social situations. 

Related Article: 7 Easy Ways to Stop Anxiety & Chronic Stress From Ruining Your Life


Overcoming Social Anxiety: What Can You Do?

Treatment can involve an array of approaches. In fact, it’s usually about finding a good balance that works for you and can help you overcome those anxious thoughts and feelings. These treatments or methods may include:

1. Gradually Easing Into Social Situations

You by no means need to go all out and attend that first house party right off the bat. If you’re feeling anxious, give yourself time and space. Try hanging out with a friend or two, and gradually build up that social tolerance again. 

It can also help to gradually expose yourself to situations that make you feel uncomfortable (but not too uncomfortable) to help push your comfort zone. For example, before attending that big wedding with hundreds of people, try hanging out with a couple friends, then a bigger group, then maybe try going to a restaurant and so on. This can really help!

2. Talking to a Pro

Some of the best therapy involves working with a professional, someone who can offer you tips and tricks that you can use during those anxious moments. 

For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help change the way you think about a situation, which, in turn, can change how you feel about it. This can turn socially anxious situations into fun and happy events, where you aren’t fearful of what could or couldn’t happen.

3. Being Kind to Yourself

The last two years haven’t been easy. Yet, practicing positive self-talk and showing yourself a little compassion can go a long way. Give yourself some time to ease back into a “normal” social life. Take the pressure off. If you’re really not feeling it, give yourself a self-care night full of your favorite shows, a warm bath, and more.

4. Asking for Extra Support from Friends & Family

Use your support system if you need it, especially if you’re feeling anxious and they are there with you. Talk to them before the social event and let them know what’s going on. True friends will be there for you and help you through it.


Go Slow

There’s no rush to jump back into every Friday night happy hour or every Sunday brunch. Take your time. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” In other words, take it one day and one stride at a time. You’ve got this.

Read Next: Do the 333 Rule and the 54321 Method Help People Struggling With Anxiety?

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash


3 comments on “Are You Struggling With Social Anxiety? How to Identify & Helpful Ways to Overcome”

  1. Overcoming Social Anxiety: What Can You Do?

    Well, instead of fighting and struggling to overcome social anxiety and be accepted, accept reality. Or rather just f*** society.

    My father who was "sociable" person with many friends said that you have to learn to get along with others. In my experience, it's more like you've got to escape from a social "hell" or "prison" and seek refuge in a community or society where you fit in.

    Let's face it. If I were born in "Redneck" town, but I'm a "normal" person, no matter what I do, I'll never fit in with Rednecks. And I DON'T want to fit and BE a Redneck. It's just not who I am.

    So what do I do? Move to California or New York. But there, the most important thing in the universe is to be "COOL": talk cool, tell cool jokes and stories, act cool, dress cool, drive a cool car, have a cool job, have cool friends, cool money, a cool girlfriend/boyfriend.

    If you're just nice and friendly, they'll look down on you as childish, immature, naive, a nerd. At worse, you'll be bullied, gossiped about, walked over. At best, you be ignored, shunned, ostracized.

    Again, that's not who I am, nor should I try or want to be "cool".

    In these circumstances, it's best to just be a remote freelancer and work from home, like a (Japanese) hikkikomori. No need for incessant grooming. No commute, no boss, no office politics, favoritism, backstabbing, gossiping.

    But I will still take walks in nature, ride my bike and befriend dogs and cats, and connect with like minded people on the other side of the world, online.

    Now this is true FREEDOM!

  2. I must admit. I used to have this dilemma. I worked on it. I read books, lots of them. Talking to people - strangers, standing my feet to ask questions, contribute something of value in corporate meeting.

    I have read something that the greatest fear in life are: The fear of death, and the other one is the fear of public speaking. I read books authored by writers like... Brian Tracy. Am now a people magnet!

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