Most people get a little nervous in certain social situations. They might experience sweaty palms right before a job interview, or find that their heart is pounding a little before they deliver a presentation. Even the simple act of meeting somebody for the first time, or going to a party, can generate anxiety in many people.
While this is completely normal, most people are able to adapt. They trust that their preparation for the job interview or presentation will get them through. Or their anxiety starts to drop once they have been at the party for a while or exchanged some pleasantries with the person they have just met.
People with social anxiety experience extreme levels of stress even during everyday interactions. They might find their anxiety skyrocketing in the grocery store checkout line, or when a neighbour drops by unexpectedly. In some people, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder are triggered by a specific incident. In others, it is present all the time, to the extent of preventing the individual’s ability to perform daily tasks, or attend work or school.
If you are not sure whether the social anxiety that you feel falls within the bounds of what is considered normal, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I afraid of going to meetings or attending gatherings such as religious services?
- Do I make excuses to get out of going to work or school?
- Do I confine myself to my home, where I only have contact with the most trusted people?
- Do I fear the scrutiny or judgment of others?
- When I meet somebody for the first time, do I spend a lot of time afterwards reliving the encounter and trying to assess whether I created a good impression?
- Do I avoid situations where I am likely to be noticed?
- Do social interactions give me palpitations, a tight chest or an upset stomach?
No one is entirely sure why some people suffer from this crippling condition. Although it tends to run in families, this could be a result of genetics or learned behaviour. Other possible risk factors include trauma, such as bullying or abuse, increased social expectations and medical conditions that lead to increased self-consciousness.
At InnerSight Psychotherapy, we believe that everybody deserves a life that is free from anxiety. Using a gentle, compassionate approach, we will help you explore and resolve the roots of your social anxiety, so that you can get to a point where you are able to enjoy all of the greatness that life has to offer.