What is Social Anxiety?

Social Anxiety is defined as an intense fear of social situations. While many people get nervous before giving a speech or get uncomfortable when meeting new people for the first time, social anxiety goes beyond that. Those suffering from social anxiety experience such high levels of anxiety in relation to social actions that their quality of life seriously suffers as a result. Even normal day to day interactions become a struggle as the sufferer continually battles anxiety and feelings of low self-worth.

One of the biggest challenges in social anxiety is that it creates an intense feeling of being constantly judged and under scrutiny. This leads to high levels of self-consciousness and worrying about how what you say will be taken. Constantly worrying about how they will be perceived makes people with social anxiety inhibited and afraid to stand up for themselves.

Social Anxiety also causes people to be very hard on themselves, often leaving people frustrated at their own perceived inadequacy. Sufferers come to dread social interactions of all kinds and become isolated and detached from their family and friends, often struggling to find work or even leave their homes.

Social anxiety is a widespread condition, affecting around 7% of the population in many western countries. The nature of the condition makes seeking treatment very difficult, but treatment using cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT can be very effective. Treatment aims to change the thinking patterns that lead people to feel self-conscious and ashamed, while also encouraging patients to face their feared social situations in a gradual process known as exposure.