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What is Social Anxiety? Learn more for you or someone you know

Social anxiety is one of the most common psychological disorders that is affecting more people than we may realize. It is important to be aware of you or people around you who may be showing variations of these symptoms. Extreme shyness is one way to think of social anxiety. Social anxiety exists along a continuum, ranging from normal shyness to high degrees of social anxiety. Social anxiety can be characterized by an intense fear of specific or all social settings. This usually also involves a heightened self-focus, and avoidance or escaping social situations. Sound familiar? This could be finding excuses not to attend a certain party or to socialize with certain people that make you feel uncomfortable. And if you do go to an uncomfortable event or surround yourself with people who make you feel this way, you may often leave early.

People who experience this social anxiety are extremely attentive to other people’s feelings, but they misread them, over-interpreting anything that could be taken as a negative reaction. They are oversensitive to criticism or negative comments. As a result, people who are highly sensitive tend to be overly aware of one’s behavior and how they think they should act in certain situations. They are so caught up in how they may appear to others that they often do not enjoy many simple experiences, for fear of negative evaluation by others.

This anxious feeling and desire to avoid an event manifests in physical ways, even before they encounter the social situation. This could be shortness of breath, faster heart rates, sweating, and stomach pains. Of course, then one would worry that people around them notice these physical signs of what they are thinking and feeling. After the encounter, they replay the situation over and over in their mind. They are so hard on themselves, and falsely accuse themselves of being ineffective or appearing insecure compared to others. Consequently, these individuals want to avoid situations with people and in places that these situations have occurred in the past.

Social anxiety is highly linked to eating disorders as well. This comes from the fear of people negatively evaluating them as overweight or unattractive, leading to dietary restriction and purging behaviours. (Please see https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/eating-disorder-counselling-etobicoke/ for more information on eating disorders).

There are many basic techniques that you can work on to feel more confident and worry less about what others think of you. Please be aware if you or someone around you seems to be displaying signs of anxiety or social anxiety. Start enjoying, be comfortable with, and stop avoiding social events and people where you want to be yourself!