Social anxiety is a severe mental health disorder that can paralyze you. You may find that you’re nervous and prefer your alone time, as being around people sends your anxiety into an uproar. However, the signs of social anxiety are not often understood by those who’ve never experienced them.
While the core symptoms are the same for most, there are always some variations in your condition. For instance, one person may have social anxiety that makes getting behind the wheel impossible, as they’ve developed claustrophobia along with it. In contrast, another person may struggle to go to the doctor’s office to get help because of the crowded waiting room.
According to the Mayo Clinic, social anxiety disorder is similar to the feelings of butterflies in your stomach before a presentation. It’s also called social phobia, and it can cause significant limitations on your life if you do not seek treatment.
Fifteen Signs of Social Anxiety
It’s challenging for folks who don’t suffer from anxiety to understand the debilitating nature. They may tell you that you need to go shopping anyway as it will help you get better. Well, while exposure therapy can help, it’s not always so cut and dry. Here are some signs of social anxiety that many people don’t understand.
1. Turning Down Invitations Can Be a First Sign of Social Anxiety
People with social anxiety turn down invitations to birthday parties and other events. It’s not that they don’t want to go, but their fear won’t allow such mingling with other people. Some folks can easily take this wrong and think that the person is coming across as snobbish, but nothing could be further from the truth.
2. Refusing to Leave the Home
The person with these high levels of anxiety finds comfort in their home. It’s imperative to seek help as people who isolate can quickly have their social anxiety turn into a more severe condition called agoraphobia. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, agoraphobia affects around one-tenth of the population.
3. Panic Attacks Go Hand-in-Hand With Social Anxiety
When a person suffering from anxiety reaches a boiling point, the body sends powerful hormones into protect. While these hormones are vital in dangerous situations, the body feels that every social situation is precarious. Having a panic attack in a public place only acerbates the issues, as the person with signs of social anxiety won’t want to return there.
4. Sweating Profusely
When you’re in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, you may begin to sweat. This response is another sign of the overproduction of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Most people don’t understand why you sweat so much, but it’s your anxiety in overdrive.
5. Skipping Grocery Stores
To someone who needs a gallon of milk, they think nothing of stopping at the supermarket and picking up what they need. However, to a person with social anxiety, that trip into the store might be worse than having a tooth pulled. Going to big box grocery stores with wide-open spaces and large crowds can be a nightmare.
6. Refusing Treatment
When you’re sick, you go to the doctor for help. However, when a person suffers from social anxiety, the doctor’s office brings much discomfort. Many people go without treatment simply because they’re afraid of the waiting room and the people there.
7. Social Anxiety Often Stems from Fearing Judgment
Part of the signs of social anxiety comes from the fear of judgment. Many folks are afraid that others will judge them harshly or unfairly. Remember, anxiety puts all sorts of thoughts into your mind and will make you think about things that aren’t true.
8. Waiting for Impending Doom
The number one reason people don’t want to go to the stores and other places where there are many people is that they fear a panic attack. You may be afraid that you will pass out, cause a spectacle of yourself, or have all eyes on you. Your anxiety can turn you into a hermit because it’s making you deliberate stuff that’s not likely to happen.
9. Avoiding Driving
One of the signs of social anxiety that isn’t easily recognized is the fear of driving. Other things can also cause driving concerns, but it’s likely caused by being in a situation where you feel there’s no escape. Some people can drive on a two-lane highway, but they will have a full-blown anxiety attack if you put them on the interstate.
10. Body Language Can Reveal Social Anxiety
The body language of a person who has social anxiety is undeniable. For instance, have you ever seen someone jiggle change or keys constantly in their pockets? Nerve problems likely cause this, and it’s a way they cope. Someone who fidgets in their chair is probably suffering from anxiety too.
11. Need for Isolation
Once anxiety levels reach a particular peek, you’ll naturally use whatever coping skills you can find to get relief. Some people will take a nap to reset their brain, while others dunk their heads in ice-cold water. Others do not understand the need for isolation, but this time allows you to cool off and bring your anxiety back down to a manageable level.
12. People Who Have Social Anxiety Avoid Places with Loud Noises
Did you know that loud noises can also drive your anxiety through the roof? If you’re in a grocery store, the sound of the wheels on the carts, the registers clanging, and the children screaming can make you want to jump out of your skin. Some people with social anxiety find that their situation is worse when it’s in an environment where there’s noise.
According to Calm Clinic, noise anxiety often accompanies other types of anxiety, and it’s a challenge to manage. It’s similar to PTSD because the person who has it is often startled when the noise levels get above their comfortable baseline. Going to something like a parade or the fireworks on the 4th of July wouldn’t be possible for someone with social anxiety.
Not only would the crowd and the fear of not being able to escape become too much to handle, but the noise would undoubtedly make them uncomfortable.
One of the signs of social anxiety that most people don’t understand is dizziness. When your anxiety is high, your body will react in many different ways. While some people might sweat, others will find themselves dizzy and feel like their head is spinning in circles.
Oddly enough, you might be dizzy one time and not have the same symptoms during the next attack, which makes things even harder to gauge.
14. Having a Small Circle of Comfort
Dating or having any social life is a challenge with social anxiety. For instance, the other person will quickly pick up that there are only a few places you can go where your anxiety doesn’t make the event unbearable. Some folks can go to the movies, but they need to sit in the back row for a quick escape.
Others may go out to eat, but only if they sit close to the door and have a planned escape route. Your anxiety levels dictate what you can and can’t do, so you develop a circle of safety that includes people and places. You can’t go beyond this safety net, or it will cause significant discomfort and a possible full-blown panic attack.
15. Social Anxiety Might Cause Rapid Speech
Do you tend to talk fast when you’re in social situations? You’re nervous, and your speech rate increases because you’re having a challenging time articulating. The incapacitating fear that you feel can make your voice squeak like a mouse, or you can talk so fast that people have a hard time keeping up. It’s certainly a sign that folks don’t understand, but you must think hard and try your best to slow down when you speak.
Final Thoughts on Recognizing the Primary Signs of Social Anxiety
There are many things about an anxiety disorder that people won’t understand until they experience it for themselves. No matter how hard you try to explain things, it just doesn’t make sense to someone who’s never had their heart racing, sweating profusely, and needed alone time to calm down.
The good news is that you don’t have to suffer from this mental health condition, as there are many treatment options available. Many folks will have social anxiety problems when they have other issues in their lives, but it will quickly leave as soon as it comes. However, others may struggle with it for life, but they learn effective ways to manage it.
First, exposure therapy is a great way to combat these feelings. However, it’s recommended that you don’t do this alone. You need a therapist or support person to help you should your anxiety reach its peak. Second, meditation is a great way to calm the body and mind and release some pressure to build your tension.
Lastly, you might want to avoid listening to the news and reading social media news highlights if your fears are trauma-based. If you suffered a horrific event, anything that triggers such memories could increase your anxiety. You don’t have to suffer from this condition, and there are trained professionals that want to help.