Social anxiety disorder is described by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America as “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations.”
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It is not run of the mill shyness, and it can be debilitating to a person who suffers from it. People who have the condition may have very few personal relationships and the symptoms could interfere with daily life.
More than 15 million Americans have the condition, which usually presents itself in the early teen years. The terror of embarrassing themselves prevents them from getting help in many cases, and people often try to live with it alone.
Here are some things you will truly be able to identify with if you also suffer from social anxiety disorder.
1. You are forced to attend events.
People with social anxiety would rather avoid social situations, so they are often pushed into going to parties or other social gatherings. You find it hard to introduce yourself and make conversation.
2. You’d rather stay home.
If you are someone who would rather be home alone reading a book, watching a movie or messing around on the computer, you probably fully understand the implications of having social anxiety.
3. You skip dinners out.
For people with social anxiety, going out to dinner is not something you look forward to; it’s something you avoid at all costs. You may go to a drive-thru, but sitting down and interacting with other diners and the staff is something you do not enjoy doing.
4. You only have a couple of friends.
When you have social anxiety disorder, it’s hard for you to form new relationships. You likely have just one or two really good friends, and you don’t try to form new friendships.
5. You always bring your lunch.
If you find yourself taking your lunch to work so you can turn down invitations to go out to lunch, you are probably well acquainted with the symptoms of social anxiety disorder.
6. You don’t have conversations.
Even if you do find yourself in a social situation, you probably have a hard time making conversation with those around you, even when they try to get you involved in what everyone is talking about. You likely feel that you will say something embarrassing or that you won’t contribute to the conversation.
7. You’re often tired.
Trying to keep up with life when you are fearful of going out in public can be stressful and exhausting. People with social anxiety disorder spend a lot of their time feeling tired and worn out from just trying to function.
8. You experience anxiety symptoms.
Having social anxiety can produce symptoms when you are in social situations or trying to interact with other people. This could be a rapid heartbeat, sweating or heavy breathing. If these symptoms crop up when you’re out and about, social anxiety could be to blame.
9. You feel overwhelmed.
People with social anxiety may be able to function in small crowds, but when they are in a room with more than just a couple of people, they feel overwhelmed. The combination of lights, sounds and voices probably makes you feel like escaping as soon as possible.
10. You shut down.
In many instances, people who suffer from social anxiety will shut down and tune out when there are too many people talking at one time. Those around you might be confused as to what’s going on when this happens.
11. You care about your looks.
Most people care how they look to some extent, but those with social anxiety are overly concerned about their clothing, hairstyle and the image they present to the public.
12. You grind your teeth.
Grinding your teeth is a behavior that you might be aware of, but that you can’t seem to control. When you do this, it helps you gain control over a situation that is causing you anxiety. Talk to your dentist if it’s bothering you.
13. You experience sleep disturbances.
When you suffer from social anxiety, you probably spend time lying awake at night worrying about things you’ve said or done in the past or you worry about embarrassment in future social situations.
14. You have panic attacks.
People who are having panic attacks often feel like they are dying, even though there is no actual danger to your health or life at the time. Counseling and/or medication can help you to keep panic attacks under control.
15. You have a hard time dating.
If you muster up the courage to go on a date in the first place, you may have trouble coming up with things to say once you get there. Because of this, you often don’t get second dates and your romantic life suffers.
16. You hate the phone ringing.
When your phone rings at off times, you tend to panic. You feel judged when this happens because being caught off-guard makes it difficult to find something to say. You feel the same way when someone comes to your door unannounced.
17. You can’t explain your feelings.
People who report having social anxiety disorder want people to understand what they are feeling and would like to explain it to others, but they have a hard time finding the words to do so. Most people want to understand, but they can’t do that without your explanations.
18. You can’t explain your actions.
Just like you can’t explain what it feels like to have social anxiety disorder, you also can’t explain why you don’t want to go out, why you would rather be alone, and why you have trouble in social interactions with other people.
19. Your family is safe.
Most people are able to be around their family members because they are safe and don’t judge people with social anxiety. That means you probably spend most of your social time with family members.
20. You have a pet.
Because you have such a hard time interacting with people, you likely have a pet who gives you someone to spend time with and who accepts you unconditionally.
21. You don’t travel.
Unless you are with family or a close friend, you rarely travel because it puts you in too many situations that cause you anxiety and panic.
22. You avoid being seen.
Sometimes you see a person you know but try to avoid being seen by them because you fear that you won’t have anything to say.
Most people who have social anxiety go years and years without being diagnosed because they can’t explain what they are feeling and are afraid to see someone about it because they fear being judged.
Very effective treatments are available for social anxiety, so gathering the courage to talk to someone about what you’re going through can really help you improve your quality of life. It will also make it easier for you to spend time with people and form new friendships and relationships.