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What Is Social Anxiety? 

Social anxiety is a specific form of anxiety that manifests when a person is confronted with social spaces. According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), social anxiety is “persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.” Levels of social anxiety can vary between people, but ultimately, social anxiety disorder is the experience of fear in certain public places and social situations. 

Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder

The exact causes of social anxiety disorder have yet to be proven, but there is evidence to show that social anxiety disorder can run in families. Although scientists have not properly identified a gene or genetic trait that would predispose a person to social anxiety, the answers tend to be based on brain development or how a person learns social cues. 

For example, those who have faces that naturally look sad or angry when a person is showing no emotion may be misconstrued by another as a face of judgment. As this misunderstanding grows, a person could begin to feel that others are passing judgments for unknown reasons as well. 

Another example is how social cues are taught in some families. Children begin learning to socialize early on from their parents and, if a parent has social anxiety, a child may learn some of the mannerisms or take on the signs of social anxiety as their own. 

Signs of Social Anxiety Disorder

According to NIMH, there are several signs to look for when locating social anxiety disorder. A few of these signs include:

  • A person blushing, trembling, or sweating in social situations
  • A person feeling nauseous or sick to their stomach in social settings
  • A person showing rigid body posture with a change in tone of voice in certain social settings
  • A person who finds meeting others scary and has a hard time connecting with new people no matter how badly they want to
  • A person feeling self-conscious in front of others and overly aware of the possibilities of scrutiny or judgment. 
  • A person having a strong aversion to and avoidance of social situations

Some people with these symptoms suffer from varying degrees of social anxiety. For those with severe social anxiety, they may avoid all public events altogether. Those with social anxiety may be prone to panic attacks in public places or if they are forced to engage in major social situations. Those diagnosed with severe social anxiety may also be suffering from agoraphobia or intense fear of a place or situation where escape might be difficult. Some people also associate agoraphobia with the fear of leaving the home, which is a common characteristic of agoraphobia. 

Treatment for Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is treatable, and with the help of a doctor, it is possible to find strategies for feeling comfortable in social situations. As the search for help begins, the first step begins by talking to a doctor about potential symptoms. They may ask for examples or suggest rating anxious feelings experienced in specific situations. It is important, to be honest, and consider potential feelings that may occur in one of those spaces. 

If feeling considerably nervous even in the doctor’s office, there is always the option to inform them. They are there to help and being able to talk about emotions is an important part of healing.


Therapy is an important part of healing and addressing social anxiety. A form of therapy that has proven to be significantly helpful is psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy.” Psychotherapy is a great way to process feelings and triggers with the help of a trained professional. 

Therapy can also help to come up with new ways to cope and ease anxiety in certain spaces. It is alright to be anxious about social situations, but if it is hindering one’s ability to live life, it is time to find help. For more resources on the subject, go to the National Institute on Mental Health

Support Groups

Support groups can also be beneficial for those who suffer from social anxiety. It may feel counterintuitive to share publicly with a group of people who also suffer from social anxiety, but there are online options and chat rooms that can help these people to ease into public meetings with a therapist and trusted support group members. 

Social Anxiety and Addiction

Some people use alcohol or other substances to numb the fear or anxiety that will creep up in social situations. The misuse or abuse of these substances can lead to addiction or addictive tendencies. If faced with the situation of losing control due to substance use or social anxiety while experiencing its negative effects, talk to a doctor or get help today. 

Social anxiety disorder is not shameful or embarrassing and, with the proper care and attention to your needs, it can be alleviated. You deserve to live your life the way you want and have positive social interactions. If you are struggling with social anxiety or using substances like drugs or alcohol as a way to “deal with” social anxiety, it’s time to seek help. At RECO Intensive, we know that fear in public spaces is normal, but it shouldn’t be a roadblock to you living out your best life. Our professional staff and experienced alumni can help create a treatment plan that is specifically catered to you. If you’re struggling with addiction via self-medication or otherwise, our treatment programs cover most substances. We also offer a myriad of therapies, including individual and group therapy, to help meet your needs. Call us at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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