How Does Social Anxiety Affect You Physically?
Social anxiety is an incredibly common condition, with an estimated 15 million Americans affected by it. While many people know about the mental symptoms of social anxiety, such as fear and worry before talking to new people or being in public, there are physical symptoms too. Knowing these physical symptoms can help those living with social anxiety better manage their condition and get the help they need.
Physical symptoms of social anxiety include a racing heart, dry mouth, blushing, nausea, and sweating. Many people experience shortness of breath when their social anxiety is triggered. Muscle tension is also common; the body instinctively tenses up to prepare for potential danger.
If you think you may be struggling with social anxiety, it’s important to talk to a medical professional about how best to manage it. Physical symptoms of social anxiety can be addressed with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness meditation. Medication can also be an option for the relief of severe symptoms.
One of the most common physical symptoms of social anxiety is a racing heart. This occurs when someone’s heart rate increases suddenly due to stress or fear, even when they’re not engaging in any activity that would typically cause this reaction. This can happen when someone anticipates a situation that causes them to feel anxious, like walking into a crowded room or speaking in public. It can also occur during the actual event itself, especially if it brings up feelings of fear or insecurity.
Sweating profusely (especially in the underarms) despite not being physically active is another physical sign of social anxiety as the body releases extra sweat due to stress. Perspiration from excessive sweating can appear on other parts of the body such as the forehead, back, etc. depending on the individual person’s physiology.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is another symptom that can accompany social anxiety. This happens when someone feels so physically overwhelmed that they find it difficult to take full breaths. This can lead to dizziness and lightheadedness, especially if it persists for long periods of time. It’s important for those experiencing this symptom to learn relaxation techniques like deep breathing to manage physical reactions to stressful situations.
Shaking is a common symptom of social anxiety that can occur when the fight or flight reaction is engaged but there is no way to release the excess energy. People experiencing this symptom might feel like their hands are trembling, or that their whole body is shaking uncontrollably. Again, relaxation techniques can be helpful in managing these physical symptoms and helping people feel more in control.
Nausea & Stomach Issues
Nausea, stomachaches, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues can also be signs that someone is experiencing social anxiety. This occurs because when we are feeling stressed or anxious our bodies divert energy away from digestion and towards other areas such as fight/flight responses. These issues are best managed with a variety of techniques including mindful eating, relaxation exercises, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Muscle Aches & Tension
Social anxiety can also cause muscle aches and tension throughout the body. These aches may manifest as headaches, neck pain, back pain, or other areas where tension accumulates due to stress-induced muscle clenching in an effort to protect yourself from potential danger. Taking time for regular stretching exercises or yoga can help reduce some of this tension and ease any discomfort associated with it.
Having difficulty speaking due to a dry mouth is another physical sign related to social anxiety. Saliva production can decrease due to the body’s heightened state and this can lead to a feeling of dryness in the mouth or throat area. It’s important to stay hydrated and take regular sips of water when feeling anxious to ensure that your mouth stays moist and you can speak comfortably.
Social anxiety can even cause physical exhaustion. This happens when the natural fight-or-flight response kicks in and your body prepares itself to either stand its ground or flee from a perceived threat. After all that adrenaline-fueled activity, you’re left feeling drained. This is why it’s important to take breaks throughout the day and find ways to relax and give your body time to recuperate.
Insomnia & Sleep Issues
Insomnia is another physical symptom of social anxiety that can manifest as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This can be due to anxious thoughts and worries that keep you up at night, as well as physical symptoms such as muscle tension and shortness of breath. Relaxation exercises, avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime, setting a consistent sleep schedule, and avoiding caffeine before bed are all helpful in improving sleep quality for those with social anxiety.
One of the most visible physical symptoms of social anxiety is blushing/flushing cheeks. This occurs when capillaries near the surface of the skin expand due to an increase in blood flow, which gives a reddish hue to the face and neck area. While this symptom can be embarrassing, it’s important to remember that it is normal and it will pass. The more you focus on it, the more intense it may become. It’s best to accept this symptom in order to move past it.
Dizziness and lightheadedness can be caused by a combination of the physical symptoms associated with social anxiety including rapid breathing and increased heart rate. This symptom can make people feel like they are going to faint or pass out which can exacerbate feelings of fear or panic. It’s important to take deep, slow breaths in order to reduce this feeling if it occurs.
When experiencing stress or fear, many people with social anxiety will feel tightness in their chest area. This symptom can also be accompanied by shortness of breath as if you can’t get enough air into your lungs. It’s important to remember that this sensation is normal and doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your heart. Taking slow, deep breaths can help alleviate this symptom.
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Sweaty palms, cold hands, and other signs of clammy skin are also physical symptoms caused by social anxiety. While embarrassing, this is a normal response to fear and stress. Washing your hands with warm water can help reduce the feeling of clamminess. It’s also helpful to keep a paper towel handy in case you need to dry your palms before shaking hands with someone. Overall, it’s important to remember that physical symptoms of social anxiety are normal and can be managed with the proper tools.
Racing Thoughts/Brain Fog
Another symptom of social anxiety is racing thoughts or brain fog. This occurs when the mind becomes overloaded with worries and anxieties, making it difficult to focus on anything else. It’s important to practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, keeping a gratitude journal, and engaging in calming activities (like yoga or walking) in order to help reduce this symptom. Taking breaks throughout the day can also be helpful for giving your mind some much-needed rest from all of the anxious thoughts.
Stuttering is another common symptom of social anxiety and can be caused by a combination of physical tension, uncertainty about what to say, and fear of being judged or misunderstood. It’s important to remember that everyone stutters from time to time and it doesn’t always have to be seen as a negative thing; try speaking slowly and take pauses in between your words if you start to feel overwhelmed by the situation. Practicing some slow deep breathing exercises beforehand can also help reduce any physical tension in your body which could lead to further stuttering.
Many people with social anxiety also experience a disturbance in their walking patterns as they become nervous or scared. This could include anything from feeling as though your body is too tense to walk properly, or even feeling shaky and unsteady on your feet. This is most common when passing people we don’t know or walking in public settings where lots of people are present. Focusing on the movement of your feet can help reduce anxious thoughts that might contribute to these physical symptoms.
Crying or tearing up during a conversation can be embarrassing and awkward, but it’s important to remember that it’s a normal physical response when feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to cry and it doesn’t mean that you’re weak. If this happens to you, try your best to stay calm and take deep breaths in order to reduce the emotional intensity of the situation.
Headaches are also a common symptom experienced by those with social anxiety due to high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol being released into the body during times when they feel anxious or overwhelmed in certain situations. To help manage headaches related to social anxiety, try practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness meditation which can both help reduce stress levels and alleviate headaches over time.
Hot flashes are another symptom of social anxiety that can be caused by increased adrenaline levels which can cause people to feel hot and flushed. To reduce this symptom, try drinking cold water or placing a cool cloth on the back of your neck for a few minutes as this will help bring down your body temperature and make you feel more comfortable.
Hives or rashes can also be caused by social anxiety due to the body’s reaction to stress and fear. This is a very uncomfortable symptom, but luckily there are ways to reduce this physical response such as applying a cold compress on the affected area, taking antihistamines, or using topical creams that contain 1% hydrocortisone which can help reduce itching and inflammation.
Loss of Appetite
Social anxiety can also cause a loss of appetite due to the increased levels of cortisol in the body which can make you feel too overwhelmed to eat. To help manage this symptom, practice mindful eating and stay away from sugary or caffeinated drinks that could further increase your levels of stress and anxiety. Additionally, try focusing on healthy food choices such as fruits and vegetables that provide your body with the nutrients it needs.
It’s important to recognize the physical symptoms associated with social anxiety so you can better understand your body’s response in certain situations and take steps to reduce your stress levels accordingly. By learning relaxation techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness meditation, you will be better equipped to deal with difficult moments without feeling overwhelmed or panicked.
With practice and patience, you may be able to start making positive changes in how you cope with situations that used to cause intense feelings of fear or discomfort. If you think you may have social anxiety disorder (SAD), seek professional help right away so you can start managing your condition more effectively. For some people, medication can be helpful for managing the physical symptoms of social anxiety.
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Here are some of my favorite social anxiety tools
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