Understanding the Three Types of Social Anxiety Symptoms
What does anxiety feel like? The answer to this question will be different for each person, depending on what type of anxiety you experience.
There are several anxiety disorders that are recognized and each has its own unique cluster of symptoms. However, there are also some common threads that tie all anxiety disorders together.
There are also varying levels of anxiety. For example, a person with generalized anxiety disorder might live with a constant state of worry and anxiety, without ever experiencing a full-blown panic attack. Someone with panic disorder, on the other hand, might primarily have full-out panic episodes without that general underlying worry about daily matters.
Social Anxiety Symptoms
What does anxiety feel like to you? If you live with social anxiety disorder you feel anxious and nervous when you are in situations in which you feel you are under scrutiny. You worry constantly about upcoming events and when you are in those situations you can’t control your physical symptoms of anxiety. After a social or performance situation, you probably relive in your mind everything that you think went wrong. In general, you live life with a lot of fear and dread.
Social anxiety disorder is the fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment, scrutiny, judgment, or evaluation are possible. People who live with social anxiety disorder experience a variety of anxiety symptoms when they are in these situations.
Social anxiety symptoms are categorized into three types: physical, cognitive, and behavioral. Below are the most common types of symptoms that you might experience within each category described with examples. When symptoms are severe and interfere with daily life, they are sometimes diagnosed as social anxiety disorder (SAD) , which responds well to treatment such as medication or psychotherapy.
Generally, this type of anxiety is experienced either in anticipation of a social or performance event or when actually in the event. At its worst, it might resemble a complete panic attack.
Cognitive Symptoms of Social Anxiety
The cognitive symptoms of social anxiety disorder are the thoughts that people with this problem have. People who are fearful in social and performance situations may think such things as “Everyone thinks I’m boring” or “People must notice how anxious I am.” Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the primary treatment methods for social anxiety disorder. The goal of CBT is to change these negative patterns of thinking. Often these negative thoughts are the result of a core negative belief about yourself, for example, “I am not worthy of having friends.”
Jack has a lot of self-doubt and negative thoughts when it comes to how he handles social situations. His self-esteem is low and he tends to think everyone else has much better social skills than he does. In situations with new people, he constantly says negative things to himself like “Everyone thinks I’m boring,” or “They can all see my anxiety.”
Behavioral Symptoms of Social Anxiety
The behavioral symptoms of social anxiety disorder are those things that people do or don’t do when they have this problem. Most commonly, people with social anxiety disorder will avoid situations that cause them anxiety. This avoidance may be obvious, such as walking out in the middle of delivering a speech, or less obvious, such as spacing out during a conversation or a party. In each case, the person with social anxiety disorder seeks to relieve the anxiety that they feel by “escaping” from the situation.
Lily has a tendency to avoid situations that require her to be social or speak in front of others. She has few friends and has never had a boyfriend. She left high school without finishing her diploma and hasn’t held a job for more than a few weeks. She lives at home with her parents and fears what the future holds for her. When she is forced to go to a party or gathering, she uses alcohol to cope or says as little as possible to avoid drawing attention to herself or looking like a fool. If she can’t drink to cope, she leaves these gatherings early when her anxiety becomes overwhelming.
Physical Symptoms of Social Anxiety
The physical symptoms of social anxiety disorder are probably the ones that most people think of when the topic of social anxiety comes up. These symptoms are such things as blushing, sweating, shaking, a racing heart, shortness of breath, and nausea. The irony is that often, people with social anxiety disorder are most fearful of others noticing the physical anxiety symptoms that they have.
Paige experiences physical symptoms of anxiety when in various situations at work. In meetings when she is asked a question or called upon to speak, she blushes profusely, hoping others won’t notice. When she has to lead a meeting or give a presentation, her hands shake, voice trembles, and it feels like she can’t catch her breath. Her mouth goes dry, making it hard to speak, and she can feel her heart start to race and pound both before and during the times she is in the spotlight.
Other physical symptoms of social anxiety include the following:
- Tense muscles
- Feeling chilled or tingles
- Tightness in the chest or chest pain
- A lump in the throat
- Blurry vision
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Feeling dizzy
- Feeling nauseous
- Feeling disoriented
Social anxiety disorder is not well understood by those who have never experienced it. It is a recognized mental disorder that with proper treatment has a very good prognosis. If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of social phobia it is important to seek help. The longer you let yourself go without seeking help for anxiety, the less time you have left to begin enjoying your life and really living. What does anxiety feel like? It often feels like a silent cry for help. Be sure to reach out and break your silence.
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Here are some of my favorite social anxiety tools
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