Social anxiety is when people feel great fear or anxiety in social situations. Most often, the anxiety is associated with the concern that others are judging you, that you are badly perceived or that you will say or do something that others think is stupid. Examples of social situations are having a conversation with someone, going to a party, meeting new people, giving a lecture, eating or writing in front of someone or talking to supervisors. It is normal to feel anxious in some social situations and most people, for example, find it stressful to give a lecture or to speak publicly. If we did not have any anxiety related social conditions then we would not care how we are perceived and what other people think. Most of us are social beings and with that comes experiencing anxiety in connection with some social situations.
Those with social anxiety experience greater anxiety in social situations and the anxiety becomes so great that it causes difficulties in daily life or significant distress. Often, social anxiety leads to people completely avoiding social situations or just about enduring through them and experiencing great anxiety and distress during the situation. It can be noticeable when people avoid situations, such as not attending a party or refusing to attend school, but sometimes the behaviour of people with social anxiety can be less noticeable, e.g. when people practise a lot for a lecture or limit eye contact. Some people have social anxiety only in certain situations, such as presentations in front of people, which is called performance anxiety. Social anxiety can have a significant impact on people's lives and decision-making. It can lead to social isolation, prevent people from attending birthdays, parties or events that would be enjoyable without the anxiety and sometimes it can even make people choose an education where there are not many presentations or group work, or make them not accept a promotion if it is followed by increased communications.
Some people with social anxiety drink alcohol or consume drugs to facilitate social interaction and cannot even attend a party without it. A short-term solution in the form of drugs does not fix social anxiety but can lead to even more problems and may even develop into an addiction. Therefore, individuals who experience social anxiety or mild anxiety in this type of situation should monitor their consumption closely and even reduce or stop it until they overcome the social anxiety. Social anxiety can also lead to depression and then it is also important to seek help.
Physical symptoms that are common with social anxiety include blushing, sweating, shivering or stuttering. It is common for these physical symptoms to stimulate even greater anxiety because people often fear that others will notice them and judge them for the symptoms. These concerns are usually unrealistic and the blushing or sweat is not enough for others to notice, and most people would not think much about these physical symptoms if they were to notice them. In social situations, individuals with social anxiety may also experience a great deal of insecurity or an empty mind. People who experience these symptoms and experience difficulties in social situations, whether they are many or few, should not hesitate to seek help.