Man suffering from social anxiety

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is more than just feeling nervous about a social function or event. Learn how to spot the signs.


Understanding social anxiety

Performing a speech in public, presenting at work, going on a new date – most of us feel a bit anxious in these types of situations. But social anxiety is more than just feeling anxious or shy in public.

People who have social anxiety feel an extreme sense of fear and anxiety in social settings and everyday interactions. They often know their fear may be unreasonable, but they are unable to overcome it.

Situations that tend to affect someone with social anxiety include meeting new people, going to events, going to work, having simple conversations, eating in front of others and walking into a room full of people.

The intense fear that people with social anxiety feel can disrupt their everyday lives and cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms.


What are the symptoms of social anxiety?

The main symptoms of social anxiety are fear, anxiety and the desire to avoid all kinds of social situations.

People with social anxiety often feel that they are being judged, humiliating themselves and embarrassing themselves. They may worry excessively about upcoming events or avoid social situations altogether.

This extreme self-consciousness can interfere with work, school, social life and family commitments.

People with social anxiety disorder may experience a range of physical symptoms, too – such as blushing, a fast heartbeat, trembling, sweating and nausea.


Possible causes of social anxiety disorder

There may be a combination of causes including genetics, environment, and thinking style.

Some people may develop social anxiety after a specific event, such as an embarrassing social situation, or after a negative experience like bullying or humiliation.


“While social anxiety can be debilitating, the good news is that symptoms can be improved with treatment.”



While social anxiety can be debilitating, the good news is that symptoms can be improved with treatment. The first step is to seek help from a health professional.

Psychological therapies and lifestyle changes may help people manage their feelings and feel more confident in social situations.

Treatment can be a long-term process. Your health professional may ask you to keep a journal of your feelings and thought patterns that contribute to social anxiety. With your health professional, you may set small and realistic goals towards what you want to achieve.

Your health professional may also show you some relaxation techniques, and recommend avoiding certain substances, like alcohol and caffeine, that can make feelings of anxiety worse.


When to seek help

If you or someone you know has symptoms of social anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek help. While you might not feel like talking about your symptoms, talking is an important step in getting better.

Treatment can help you control your symptoms. You can discuss your concerns with your GP in the first instance.

Call us on 1300 651 251 or access free video and online counselling.

If it is an emergency, please call 000.