Social anxiety disorder is an intense fear of being judged by others. It means an almost paralysing anticipation of being embarrassed or humiliated by something you say or something you do. It can result in acute physical reactions such as trembling, sweating, palpitations, stammering and even panic attacks.

It’s far more than shyness. We can all get nervous talking to a boss or making a presentation, but Social Anxiety Disorder makes everyday tasks like going shopping or even going out of the house, completely nerve-wracking.

It can help to challenge your thoughts. For example, if you’re sure ‘People will think I’m stupid’, the first thing is to notice what you are thinking. That can be tricky, for habitual thoughts happen virtually automatically, as if they were travelling down a well-worn groove.

Then consider the thought logically:

Is it true?
How do you know that?
Who are ‘people’?
Everybody or one person in particular?
How do you know what they are thinking?

In particular, consider if you are doing any of the following in your pattern of thoughts:

  • Mind reading – Assuming you know what other people are thinking, and that they see you in the same negative way that you see yourself.
  • Fortune telling – Predicting the future, usually while assuming the worst will happen. You just “know” that things will go horribly, so you’re already anxious before you’re even in the situation.
  • Catastrophizing – Blowing things out of proportion. If people notice that you’re nervous, it will be “awful,” “terrible,” or “disastrous.”
  • Personalizing – Assuming that people are focusing on you in a negative way or that what’s going on with other people has to do with you.

(Quoted from Help Guide which has useful tips on dealing with Social Anxiety Disorder).

If your anxiety is causing you great stress, therapy may well help. Firstly  you may find simply sharing how you feel is a relief. Then working through negative thinking patterns like those above, can be beneficial. Therapy can also help you explore the deeper causes of Social Anxiety and examine their place within your life as a whole.

Meditation, or controlled breathing can also be useful. As can steering clear of stimulants and adopting a healthier lifestyle with enough sleep, good food, and limited alcohol intake.

If you think you are suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder, there is a support site called Social Anxiety UK which let’s you know you aren’t alone.

Finally, a doctor may prescribe medication – though for a look at divergent opinions on medication as opposed to therapy, read this.