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  • Olga Rudin


Do your palms get sweaty when you first meet someone? Do you feel as though you struggle to find the appropriate words? Does your voice quiver when speaking to someone new? Perhaps you're feeling shy.

Social anxiety is more common than you think. About 9.4% of New Zealand people suffer from social anxiety at some point in their lifetime.

If you are one of those people you are aware of how crippling it can be. You may worry about being evaluated negatively by others. You may feel self-conscious or awkward in social situations or avoid situations altogether. It is difficult to maintain relationships and succeed in work or school. This condition can make everyday tasks, like going to work or running errands, feel like a nightmare.

Social anxiety can have a negative impact on many aspects of your life, but the good news is there are plenty of things you can do to help manage the symptoms and continue thriving in life.

This article will explain the causes of social anxiety, and how it affects daily life. You will learn what actions you may take to control it, allowing you to have the life you desire.

What is social phobia?

Social phobia is also known as a social anxiety disorder (SAD). It is an intense fear of social situations. SAD can be triggered by a fear of being judged, evaluated, or scrutinized by others.

It can be quite difficult for people to communicate with others and can even be crippling. People who suffer from social anxiety disorder may avoid or deal with social events in a distressing way. They avoid meeting new people, giving a speech, and doing other social activities.

Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety can cause both physical and psychological symptoms. So It can be very challenging to deal with them, especially when trying to function in everyday life.

My client, whom we’ll call Sarah, is not alone in feeling this way. Sarah came to see me with social anxiety. She's a bright young woman who works from home, but she has to go into the office for meetings once a fortnight.

The problem is that she starts to feel very anxious as soon as she walks into the room. She walks in with her head held down as she is too scared to meet the eyes. She thinks people are looking at her and judging her. Speaking at the meeting is scarier than suicide. She gets so self-conscious that she can't speak or think properly. She feels so shy that she can't even ask work-related questions during work meetings.

She has all anxiety symptoms. Her heart races, her hands tremble and she feels dizzy and nauseous. She feels ashamed because everyone can see her blushing. It is hard for her to speak smoothly without stumbling over her words. She frequently loses her train of thought when speaking.

It's embarrassing, and she hates feeling like this, but she doesn't know how to stop it. So instead, she's been avoiding people and social situations altogether, but she cannot avoid meetings. At the same time lack of communication makes her feel lonely and isolated.

You can see from this example that people with social phobia may experience both physical and psychological symptoms.

The Physical Symptoms

People with social anxiety experience the following symptoms:

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Heart palpitations

  • Dry mouth

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

  • Blushing

The Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms of social anxiety can include:

  • Intense discomfort around other people, especially strangers.

This discomfort can manifest itself in several ways, from physical symptoms like racing heart and shaking to mental symptoms like feeling dizzy or nauseous.

  • Avoidance of social situations, including parties and meetings.

For socially anxious people, these feelings can be so overwhelming that they start to avoid all or most social situations where they might have to interact with others.

This can make it hard to work or go to school and can even limit someone’s social life. But avoiding doesn't make the fear go away, and over time it can make anxiety worse.

In severe cases, social anxiety can lead to agoraphobia, which is when a person starts to avoid all public places out of fear of having a panic attack.

  • Fear of receiving criticism or scrutiny from others.

People with social phobia are afraid of situations where they might be watched or evaluated by other people, like giving a presentation at work or talking to a crush.

They worry that others will notice and criticize their flaws. They worry that they'll be embarrassed or say something wrong, and everyone will evaluate them negatively them harshly.

  • Feeling embarrassed or self-conscious.

Social anxiety can make people feel ashamed like they're being judged or scrutinized. They may worry about being embarrassed or humiliated.

  • Fear of being rejected by other people.

People affected by social anxiety may be afraid that their performance or behavior will turn people off. They may worry that other people will think they're boring, unattractive, weird, or boring.

  • Fear of being the centre of attention.

People with social phobia may worry that they'll be put on the spot or forced to talk in front of a group. They may worry that they'll say something stupid or embarrassing.

Individuals with social anxiety may experience a wide range of mental and emotional symptoms. These may include feelings of panic, nervousness, embarrassment, self-consciousness, shame, anger, and depression.

What Causes Social Phobia?

Social anxiety can be caused by a variety of things, including genetics, biology, stressful childhood experiences, and mental health. If you have a family history of anxiety or mental disorders, you might be more likely to develop a social anxiety disorder. Possible causes include:

  • Sexual, emotional, or physical abuse.

  • Bullying. at school or at work

  • Teasing

  • Being criticized

  • Family disputes, domestic violence, and a divorce.

  • Rejection

  • Low self-esteem and self-worth

Social Phobia vs Shyness

Social anxiety disorder is often mistaken for shyness, which is a natural personality trait, though it has similar signs to social anxiety. Shy people may feel anxious in social situations.

Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition. If not treated it could worsen over time and even cause other mental health disorders such as depression, panic disorder, and others.

Shyness typically manifests itself at specific times. A shy person is more likely to feel timid when faced with certain social situations or unknown situations; yet, as they become acquainted with the environment or the people, they begin to feel more at ease. Social anxiety, though, typically persists in social situations.

How Can One Overcome Extreme Social Anxiety?

Living with social anxiety can be difficult, but there is hope. With treatment, you can learn to manage your social anxiety and live a more fulfilled life. Here are five ways to cope with social anxiety:

1. Seek Professional Help.

It is very important to seek professional help because people with social phobia are more prone to mental illnesses such as GAD, agoraphobia, panic disorder, major depressive disorder, and substance abuse.

Such therapies as Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT), Hypnotherapy, EMDR, and CBT can be very helpful in overcoming social anxiety.

BWRT therapy is incredibly effective in treating social anxiety disorder in adults. In my experience as a BWRT therapist, clients with social anxiety have low self-esteem and a negative self-image of how other people see them. They are sure that people see them the same way they see themselves.

I usually ask my clients how they know it or if they can read other people’s minds. They answer that they feel it or believe it. That means they have negative beliefs about themselves.

When faced with social situations people with social anxiety disorder turn their focus inside and use this information to guess how they will appear to others.

I ask another question what the worst-case scenario is if people negatively think of them. The common answer is they will be rejected, or humiliated or their self-esteem will drop.

People who experience fear and anxiety in social situations used to have traumatic experiences in the past. It was either bullying, humiliation, or sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse. Those bad experiences trigger social anxiety.

The BWRT process is based on neuroscience. It helps replace negative self-image and core beliefs with positive ones. It rewires the brain to respond differently to trigger social situations. Thus, the emotions, thoughts, and patterns of behavior change.

After a few sessions, clients with a social phobia could feel confident in communicating with other people.

If you are unable to find a therapist, try speaking to your doctor or general practitioner about what is going on for you, and discuss the possibility of medication.

2. Identify Trigger Situation

Identify a trigger situation and use this self-help technique.

  • Visualize the trigger situation.

  • Think of yourself as the person you wish to be.

  • Do this exercise five times a day.

  • Come out of your comfort zone. Spend a little bit of time around the real trigger situation.

This technique can help you feel better in social interactions and manage anxiety.

3. Challenge Negative Thoughts.

When you're feeling anxious, take a step back and examine your thoughts. Make a list of your negative thoughts. What are your fears? Are your thoughts true? Think about what you can do to change those thoughts.

4. Learn Self-Hypnosis Techniques

Self-hypnosis will help you reduce anxiety.

  • Find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down and relax for ten minutes.

  • Start with deep breathing and slowly work your way into a more relaxing state.

  • Then give yourself a positive suggestion.

  • Repeat that suggestion several times.

4. Build Up Your Confidence.

Social anxiety can make you feel shy and withdrawn, but you can build up your confidence by slowly exposing yourself to social situations and practicing social skills.

Make your plan for exposure. If you are invited to a party, do not decline that invitation.

  • Set the time for how long you can stay there.

  • Prepare an excuse for why you have to leave earlier.

  • Prepare 5 questions you can ask a stranger at the party.

  • Rehearse them out loud.

Think of two or three situations you don't like. Expose yourself gradually in the same way. Make some preparations before you go.


If you're reading this, you likely suffer from social anxiety. Don't worry, you're not alone. Millions of people suffer from social anxiety, and there are things you can do to help yourself. You may have been suffering from social anxiety for years without knowing it, but now that you're aware of your problem, you can start to work towards a solution.

This guide will help you learn how to cope with social anxiety, and the tips and advice contained in it will hopefully change your life for the better. If you follow this guide closely, you'll find your social anxiety greatly reduced.

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