What is Social Anxiety?
Social Anxiety is one of the more common anxiety disorders that is characterised by an excessive and often unreasonable fear of negative evaluation, criticism and judgement from others and a fear of embarrassment or humiliation in public. It is more than general shyness, is often associated with anticipatory anxiety and tends to begin in childhood or adolescence, although it can be triggered in adulthood. It is thought that social anxiety affects around 1 in 10 people at some point in their lives.
Effects and Symptoms Social Anxiety
Social anxiety can affect anyone, can impact on our ability to cope and function in everyday activities, relationships, work, and social activities and can reduce our happiness and overall quality of life
For children and adolescents, social anxiety can affect their self-esteem and confidence at school. They may struggle with doing class presentations, talking on assembly or in class, asking a teacher for help with schoolwork, joining in on activities, making friends, talking in a group, expressing an opinion or speaking up for themselves, drawing attention to themselves, and shyness in general social situations. A child with social anxiety may refuse to go to school, try new hobbies or sports or go to parties and sleepovers with friends. In addition to feeling highly anxious, a young person’s thinking can also be affected, where the threat or danger they are concerned about appears to them to be much bigger than it actually is. A young person can then become more tense and worried when they think about this situation that makes them feel anxious. Children and adolescents with anxiety may develop their own coping strategies to try to manage situations that make them feel anxious. This is not usually helpful as it results in them trying to avoid the situation or having a parent, older sibling or another adult step in and resolve it for them. Avoiding a situation makes it more likely that the young person will learn to feel anxious about that situation and be unable to manage it next time around. This also makes it more difficult for the young person to cope when stressful situations arise at home, with friends, school, or in social situations.
Social anxiety can affect adults in similar ways. Common situations that are significantly difficult for adults with social anxiety include going to tafe or university, catching public transport, public speaking, working in group activities at work or university, concern about how they may appear to others, making mistakes and answering questions incorrectly, standing in queues, making requests, taking a faulty or damaged item back to a store, writing or completing forms around others, making phone calls, using public toilets, being the centre of attention, meeting new people, performing around others and dealing with authority figures or difficult people. Social anxiety in the work place may mean that people hold back, have difficulty with assertiveness and managing conflict and avoid trying new things or challenges due to a fear of making mistakes, not achieving, being ridiculed or embarrassing themselves. An adult with social anxiety can also have significant difficulty with dating and forming or maintaining relationships due to a fear of embarrassment or humiliation, perception that others may not like them or think bad of them, and feeling awkward and inferior. Adults affected by social anxiety experience marked psychological and physical anxiety which results in marked avoidance of the feared social situations, work and relationships and can often lead to social isolation. Adults affected by social anxiety may also use alcohol or drugs to numb, escape or avoid their distress rather than confront it.
What treatment is available to me?
If this is you or someone you know, there is help available and with the right treatment program individually tailored to your individual situation and lifestyle, can be effective in reducing anxiety associated with social situations.
Gold standard interventions such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which incorporates cognitive challenging, behavioural experiments and Exposure Therapy, can be collaboratively tailored to the individual to improve functioning through effectively targeting the factors that contribute to Social Anxiety.
If you require additional information, please call our office on 07 3256 6320. Our mental health focused reception staff will be only too happy to assist you with your enquiry about our service and can suggest the most suitable Psychologist for your concern.