What’s It Like to Live with Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is becoming increasingly prominent, with more people understanding that it’s a real and complex condition. Simply knowing that social anxiety exists doesn’t necessarily help those who may be suffering and not realize it, however. Many people live with social anxiety and aren’t fully aware of it, in part because they don’t realize that what they’re feeling are symptoms of the condition.

Mental and Emotional Symptoms

Many people think that social anxiety is simply being nervous or uncomfortable in crowds. In truth, however, the symptoms are much more complex than this. While it’s not an exhaustive list, here are a few of the most common emotional symptoms of social anxiety:

  • Fear of being judged by others
  • Extreme fear of embarrassing yourself
  • Fear of interacting with strangers
  • Worry that others will notice that you appear anxious
  • Anxiety or panic in anticipation of future events
  • Expecting the worst out of any negative experience in social situations
  • Overanalyzing your interactions after returning from a social situation

Note that these symptoms are all related to the emotional effects of social anxiety disorder. There are physical symptoms to the condition as well.

Physical Symptoms of Social Anxiety

There are several ways that social anxiety can affect you physically, though specific physical symptoms can vary from person to person. Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some of the more common physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder:

  • Frequent blushing
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Trembling or muscle tightness
  • Hyperventilating
  • Difficulty thinking and memory problems

Unfortunately, the mental and emotional effects of social anxiety disorder aren’t the only symptoms of the condition. Because of the social focus of the anxiety you feel with the disorder, it can have a significant impact on your social interactions and readiness for social situations as well.

Social Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

As with the other lists of symptoms, this is by no means all-inclusive. While everyone’s experience is unique, here are some of the most common ways that social anxiety can affect your social interactions:

  • Difficulty interacting with strangers or authority figures
  • Difficulty making or maintaining eye contact while talking
  • Increased absenteeism from work or school
  • Reluctance or inability to enter rooms where an activity has already started or where others are already seated
  • Reluctance or inability to eat when others aren’t eating or have already finished
  • Difficulty starting conversations or approaching others, even in situations where it would be socially appropriate (such as returning items at a store or asking questions in a classroom setting)
  • Inability to ask someone on a date or make other overt romantic gestures

In cases of severe social anxiety, it can even become difficult to leave the house or go anywhere that others will be present. The longer these feelings go on, the harder it can be to reestablish normal social interactions for fear that someone will have noticed your absence.

So What Does Social Anxiety Feel Like?

The experience of social anxiety will be different for everyone who experiences it, but for many people, it doesn’t always feel like what you would expect from anxiety. Instead, it comes across more like a feeling of dread or a fear of embarrassment. The intensity can vary depending on the situation and your overall health and mental wellbeing, with the symptoms getting better or worse over time. The condition can also be comorbid with depression or other mental health issues, worsening the symptoms of both and at times making those symptoms feel overwhelming.

If you worry that you’re experiencing some of all of these feelings, it might be time to talk to a doctor you trust or a mental health professional. That can be a very scary talk to have if you suffer from social anxiety, but in the end, it can make a huge difference in your life.

If you suffer from social anxiety, what resources do you have to help you cope with your condition?


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