Casey wanted to go back to college but she was afraid to call the college and speak with someone. What if they didn’t like her on the phone and that affected her being able to attend? What if she asked a stupid question in class? What if her classmates didn’t liked her? Instead of moving forward with attending school again, Casey abandoned this idea before beginning the process.
Not only did she not follow through with school, she continually decreased her contact with others fearing they would reject her. When meeting new people or even thinking about meeting people she would feel sick, profusely sweating, becoming nauseous, dizzy and lightheaded. It got so bad she increasingly isolated herself and stopped trying new things.
Maybe you have felt this way before in a situation, but for many people these feelings are persistent and affect their daily quality of life. They’re experiencing symptoms of social anxiety (or social phobia).
Symptoms of social anxiety may vary with each person, but the disorder is based upon negative thinking patterns. There’s a fear of being negatively evaluated by others in social or performance situations, such as interacting with authority figures, giving presentations, or speaking up at work or school. A particularly destructive behavior can be the abuse of alcohol to calm the nerves before entering a social situation.
As adults, this can be especially difficult because we are often presented with situations where we have to meet new people, like at work, at college, when dating, or moving to a new city. Often adults with social anxiety have feelings of loneliness or shame and lack many relationships. A modern problem is the overdependence on technology, especially social media sites, to avoid the anxiety of facing social situations.
If you are experiencing chronic or debilitating social anxiety, you’re not alone. It is one of the most common anxiety disorders, and counseling and medication can be effective treatments. CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) is a specific therapy that can be effective for social anxiety, because learning how to manage negative thinking patterns through repeated practice can help lessen anxiety.