Meeting Social Anxiety
Updated: Oct 7
Social anxiety disorder is a common mental health issue, which is sometimes referred to as social phobia. Characterised by health professionals as fear of social situations and being judged in any way, it can have a significant impact on a person's ability to engage in day to day interactions with others. Many people feel unable to operate in everyday social settings, such as school, work or even recreational spaces.
We’ve written previous posts examining what social anxiety disorder is in more detail, what it can be like living with it and some steps you can take to reduce its effects. Read more about if you have social anxiety.
Focussing on the key indicators of social anxiety, it is possible to identify for ourselves whether or not we may be suffering for the disorder. Here are some things to look out for.
A sense of nervousness is common in life, but for those people with social anxiety, that state is heightened and occurs much more regularly. Consider an average day, it is filled with social interactions, each of which can make us feel nervous. How do you feel when being introduced to other people; making eye contact with those we are speaking to; being the centre of attention; being on the receiving end of feedback? When in a school or work setting, we might find ourselves in situations where we have to speak publicly, be the subject of monitoring and even meet people of authority. These all can prompt overwhelming nervousness, so be mindful of that, and notice when those feelings are present for you.
Socially anxious individuals are likely to demonstrate physical symptoms when either in or thinking about social situations. That fear of judgement can manifest itself in a number of different ways, such as blushing, difficulty speaking or speaking quietly, or sweating. In more intense situations it could cause a racing heart rate, trembling limbs, muscle tension or even dizziness or nausea.
Some people with social anxiety can feel some of these, while others can go through all of these symptoms. What is more, panic attacks in socially anxious individuals can be quite common, when participating in interactions with others.
The unfortunate aspect of physical symptoms is that they will only serve to feed the fear of judgement, should another person notice these at any point. They can become a driver of avoidant behaviour - more on that later.
It is a common tendency in sufferers of social anxiety to over analyze previous experiences and situations where they felt embarrassed. We have all lay awake at night, remembering that awkward interaction or the embarrassing moment at school or the office. However, it is quite likely that people move past this and forget about it; this isn’t true for socially anxious individuals. They can often fixate on these moments and they feed their feelings of embarrassment and fear of judgement.
Furthermore, some may even project these feelings into scenarios which have not taken place. Over analyzing situations which haven’t, and may never, happen is quite common and has a detrimental affect on their wellbeing.
This over analysis also can lead to the belief that the sufferer has fewer social connections, in particular when they are distancing themselves from others. That in itself will encourage the idea that they don’t have people that they can feel safe and at peace around, which is crucial for those with social anxiety.
One of the most common indicators of social anxiety is avoidant behaviour. Social situations are such a big part of everyday life: meeting friends or family, going shopping, attending school or work. So when they evoke negative responses, it is no surprise that a coping mechanism is to avoid them altogether. It eliminates the likelihood of being judged by others and the fear of social engagements.
But unfortunately, the longer these situations are avoided, the more insurmountable the feelings of anxiety can become, making it harder and harder to change that behaviour. It may appear to be a solution, but it is only encouraging a downward spiral of anxiety. If your level of anxiety is causing you to opt out of day to day situations, that’s a strong indicator that you may be suffering from social anxiety.
The team at oVRcome, along with health professionals, have put together a series of tests for different fears and phobias. You might like to try this free test for social anxiety severity. These all serve to provide you with an insight into whether you may benefit from intervention. This tool may be the beginning of a positive step forward for those suffering from anxieties and phobias.