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    Social Anxiety

    What is social anxiety?
    Social anxiety can be a disorder or, in other words, called social phobia - it is referred to as nervousness in social situations. It can emerge from a confluence of factors including genetic predisposition, childhood experiences and unusual brain functioning.  It is highly responsive to treatment and its symptoms can be effectively managed. It is a common problem that usually shows its effects during teenage years which can get better as one gets older; however, for the majority it doesn’t go away on its own. Moreover, it can be distressing and have a big impact on your life, therefore recognising its symptoms is extremely important.

    Recognising Symptoms
    Social anxiety tends to especially show its effects in teenagers (not to exclude social anxiety in very young children or people of other ages) and sometimes can be interpreted as shyness, but it is more than just getting apprehensive in a crowd; this can actually be an intense fear that does not go away and affects you in day to day activities or relationships.  Of course we all can get nervous in social situations, for example performing in play can be terrifying or something as simple as answering the phone can be nerve wracking, but when that fear becomes extreme and results to feeling overly worried before, during and after such an event it is important to get help and you can start by identifying symptoms such as:

    • Dreading daily activities eg starting a conversation
    • Avoid/worry continuously about an event eg a party
    • Feeling an intense sensation as you feel that you are being watched all the time
    • Fearing criticism or avoiding eye contact

    There are many more symptoms that can also be signs of social anxiety - these can often root from an alternative mental health issue.

    How to overcome social anxiety:
    Dealing with social anxiety can be extremely difficult and like having any other form of anxiety or mental health issue it can be scary to seek help. A starting point for dealing with such fear can be self-help which is probably unlikely to cure all your worries but can reduce its effects and you may see some improvements.

    Try:

    • Sitting down in a quiet space alone and begin by taking a few deep breaths to help focus your mind on your breathing and you can start to concentrate on your thoughts.
    • When you start to feel calm and ready to think back to an event where you felt nervous in a social situation (remember you could have felt nervous about picking up the phone for example it doesn’t have to be big) - firstly try and visualise the exact moment, once you have the image in your head think hard to realise what thoughts you were having at the time - it may have been the fear of not being able to do it or thinking you may go wrong or say something not quite right - then try and remember if you reacted or behaved a certain way. Hopefully this will help you to try and understand what was the actual problem and why is it you were so scared.
    • Once you realise the situation (don’t worry if you can’t, this may need a few trials) you may start to think about which parts you could have tackled. Getting a clear idea can allow you to ask yourself what went so badly. You may find that it is extremely hard to find anything that went specifically wrong, this is subconsciously and unwillingly assuming the worst, thus you felt such a horrible fear.
    • However, there may have been something that went wrong, but try and ask yourself is it really the worst possible thing that could have happened?  See if you can come up with an alternative method to avoid repeating the same in the future.

    Getting help
    Trying to overcome some fears can be hard and scary to do yourself so sometimes it would be better to get some help; as hard as it may seem talking to someone sharing your fears can help you understand the situation especially if my method above didn’t work for you.

    You could talk to your GP. A GP will be aware that it is common in many others and will help to put you at ease.  There are also support groups such as Anxiety UK, Mind and Young Minds.

    Seeking professional help can seem quite scary so why not try sharing with a friend, teacher, parent/carer first; I can assure you it's the best starting point.

    I hope this article has taught you a bit more about social anxiety. My method mentioned in “Things you can try to overcome” is one I have come up with myself and is one I use myself and it helps me and I hope it can help you if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned.

    Please feel free to email me to discuss anything further.  I am happy to talk with you about any similar problems you may be facing - alim329@csg.school

    Mahfuza 11C
    Head Girl Team