10. Misunderstood by others (including therapists)
No one else understands what it feels like to have social anxiety. Social anxiety remains a relatively misunderstood anxiety disorder, so it comes as no surprise that we feel at a loss when it comes to overcoming it. Many therapists lack the required knowledge to diagnose the disorder properly, and very few structured cognitive-behavioral therapy groups exist in the world. With time, hopefully this becomes less of an issue.
9. Restricted from living a "normal" life
We feel our options in life are limited. Because we feel unable to engage in common, everyday activities, we feel trapped. A sense of helplessness and lack of control often accompany the feelings of being stuck or trapped.
8. Trapped (in a vicious cycle)
We realize that our thoughts and actions don’t make rational sense, but we feel doomed to repeat them anyway. We don’t know any other way to handle scenarios in our lives. It is difficult for us to change our habits because we don’t know how.
We feel alienated and isolated from our peers and families. We feel like we “don’t fit in” because no one understands us. The more we think this way, the more isolated we become. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We identify with the word “loner.”
6. Hypersensitive to criticism and evaluation
We interpret things in a negatively skewed way. Our brain’s default position is irrational and negative. Even a minor misunderstanding can lead to a lengthy period of self-criticism. Sometimes others try to offer us advice, and we can take it the wrong way. We avoid events or activities where we can be judged, and this contributes to our lack of experience and sociability.
5. Depression over perceived failures
We replay events in our heads over and over, replaying how we “failed miserably” in our own perception. We’re certain that others noticed our anxiety, and they dislike us because of it. In reality, other people don’t see anything out of the ordinary, and since the event is over, they don’t spend any time obsessing over it. We may go our entire lives thinking back and re-living a “failed” experience, e.g., a public presentation, a bad date, or a missed opportunity. We keep replaying these things in our minds over and over again, which only reinforces our feelings of failure and defeat.
4. Dread and worry over upcoming events
We think about upcoming events too much, and “negatively predict” the outcomes of such events. Worrying about the future focuses our attention on our shortcomings. We may experience anticipatory anxiety for weeks, because we feel the event will cripple us emotionally (i.e., flood us with anxiety). Worrying causes more worry, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Our fear and anxiety is built up to gigantic proportions, the more time we spend worrying about the future. We make mountains out of molehills.
3. Uncertainty, hesitation, lack of confidence
We generally have low self-esteem. We hold ourselves back and avoid situations in life. We don’t participate in conversations with others people as much as we should. We censor ourselves and avoid situations because we fear being criticized and rejected by others. The fear of disapproval is so strong that we don’t get enough life experience in social situations, due to our habit of avoidance.
2. Fear of being the center of attention
Being put on the spot or made the center of attention is another primary symptom of social anxiety disorder. The thought of giving a presentation in front of a group of people cripples us with anxiety and fear. We worry that everyone will notice our anxiety, even though we are good at hiding it. We may display physiological symptoms of anxiety like sweating, blushing, shaking of the hands or legs, neck twitches, and weakening of the voice.
Social anxiety makes us too aware of what we’re doing and how we’re acting around others. We feel like we’re under a microscope and everyone is judging us negatively. As a result, we pay too much attention to ourselves, and worry about everyone seeming to observe and notice us. We worry about what we say, how we look, and how we move. As an extreme example we may even worry about the way we are walking and may think to ourselves, “Do I look funny? Am I walking strangely? Do I walk with a limp? Why is everyone looking at me?” We‘re obsessed with how we we’re being perceived. Subsequently, it is hard for us to focus externally, live in the moment, and enjoy life.
*If you are seeking treatment for social anxiety, start here*