Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is marked by intense and relentless dread of social interactions. According to a survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than one in six Australians (17.2%) suffer from social anxiety disorder. Imagine you are at a social gathering where the music is spot-on, and the laughter is infectious, but instead of joining in the fun, you are entangled in a psychological conflict with your anxiety. Welcome to the emotional whirlwind of social anxiety disorder, where every handshake feels like a difficult acrobatic act, and each interaction is like treading on a tightrope amidst anxiety and social blunders. Let’s explore the quirky realm of social anxiety symptoms and discover how to conquer the anxiety demon dwelling within.

What is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is a crippling psychological condition marked by extreme and persistent fear and avoidance of social situations. Overwhelming anxiety or self-consciousness in social situations are common symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Anxiety over being judged can result in avoidance behaviours that affect social, professional, and academic performance. People with social anxiety disorder can learn to control their symptoms and enhance their quality of life with therapy.

What are the social anxiety symptoms?

Social anxiety disorder, often known as social phobia, is defined by an excessive dread of social situations in which the individual may be scrutinised or assessed by others. The following are typical signs of social anxiety:
  1. Fear of judgement: People who struggle with social anxiety frequently worry about being humiliated, criticised, or ashamed in public. They may obsessively worry about saying or doing anything humiliating or about receiving bad feedback from other people.
  2. Physical symptoms: There are several physical signs of social anxiety, such as blushing, sweating, shaking, fast pulse, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may occur in anticipation of social situations or during the actual event.
  3. Avoidance of social situations: People who struggle with social anxiety may stay away from parties, social events, or situations where they feel they will be the centre of attention. They may also avoid interacting with strangers or authoritative figures.
  4. Physical self-consciousness: Individuals suffering from social anxiety may have extreme self-consciousness about their physical attributes or behaviours in social situations. They may worry excessively about being noticed, scrutinised, or judged for perceived flaws or imperfections.
  5. Overthinking: People who struggle with social anxiety may dwell on the past or worry excessively about the future. They could mentally rerun events, overthink, and concentrate on perceived errors or awkward situations.
  6. Difficulty starting or maintaining conversations: Socially anxious People may find it difficult to start or continue discussions as they worry that they won't have anything to say or that others will think poorly of them. They could also find it difficult to maintain eye contact or a steady voice when conversing.
  7. Fear of public speaking: One of the most prevalent signs of social anxiety disorder is fear of public speaking. When giving a presentation in front of others, people may become extremely uncomfortable, tremble, or find it difficult to talk clearly.
  8. Performance anxiety: Socially anxious People may get extremely nervous before taking part in events like tests, job interviews, or performances where they feel like they are being judged.
  9. Interpersonal challenges: Social anxiety can cause people to avoid social situations or be afraid of rejection, which can make it difficult to establish and sustain relationships.

What causes social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is a complicated mental illness impacted by several genetic, environmental, biochemical, and psychological factors. Although the precise origin of social anxiety disorder remains partially known, numerous factors may play a role in its development:
  1. Genetic factors: Research indicates that a person's susceptibility to social anxiety disorder may be influenced by their genetic makeup. Individuals who have a family history of anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder, are more likely to experience the illness themselves. Anxiety-related changes in brain chemistry and functioning may be influenced by certain genetic variants.
  2. Brain chemistry and functioning: Anxiety disorders, especially social anxiety disorder, have been linked to imbalances in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These neurotransmitters are involved in mood regulation.
  3. Learned behaviour: Seeing or experiencing social anxiety in family members or peers might affect the development of a social anxiety disorder. Through modelling or reinforcement, children might pick up nervous behaviours and ideas about social settings.
  4. Environmental factors: Negative or traumatic childhood events, including abuse, bullying, or social rejection, might accelerate the onset of social anxiety disorder. Stressful life events can also cause or worsen symptoms of social anxiety. Examples of these events include relocating to a new school or city, losing a loved one, or running into financial troubles.
  5. Temperament Factors: The likelihood of acquiring social anxiety disorder may be heightened by specific personality features or temperamental characteristics. For instance, those who are quiet, reserved, meticulous, or extremely sensitive to criticism might be more likely to experience social anxiety.
  6. Cognitive factors: The persistent nature of social anxiety disorder can be attributed to maladaptive thought patterns and cognitive biases, such as poor self-evaluations, excessive concern about social performance, and a tendency to catastrophize social outcomes.
  7. Social and cultural factors: Societal expectations, cultural norms, and experiences with discrimination or marginalisation can all have an impact on social anxiety disorder development. People from cultures that prioritise social hierarchy or conformity, for instance, could be more vulnerable to social anxiety when faced with societal pressure to live up to predetermined norms.


The standard course of treatment for social anxiety disorder includes self-help techniques, medication, and a mental health care plan. The main treatment strategy is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which assists patients in progressively facing their fears in social circumstances and challenging negative thought patterns.  Formal therapy is complemented with self-help practices such as social skills training, mindfulness, and relaxation methods. Changes in lifestyle, such as consistent exercise and wholesome routines, can also facilitate healing. Additionally, more possibilities for skill development and support are provided by group therapy. Through customised treatment regimens and continuous assistance, people may effectively cope with social anxiety and enhance their overall quality of life.

When should I contact a doctor?

You must get treatment for social anxiety disorder if it seriously affects your relationships, everyday functioning, or overall well-being. If you find yourself avoiding social interactions, if you experience severe fear or anxiety in social circumstances, it's a good idea to get treatment. Other indicators include bodily manifestations like perspiration, shaking, or an irregular pulse in social settings, as well as ongoing anxiety related to forthcoming social engagements.

A mental health care plan may be quite beneficial. Start by recognizing your triggers and stressors and gradually proceed to plan self-care and relaxation activities, including yoga and meditation. Consider participating in enjoyable and satisfying activities, such as artistic projects or hobbies. Remember to be kind to yourself and refrain from judging yourself. Do not hesitate to contact a mental health professional for additional help and information if your symptoms intensify or persist.

So, while the anxiety demon may hide in the darkness, armed with an array of apprehensions and inadequacies, you hold the power to seize the limelight. With appropriate resources, self-love, and support you can change the battleground to a ballroom. So, take hold of your courage, start the celebration fireworks, and let’s groove toward a brighter and fearless future!  

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This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.