1. What is social anxiety?
  2. What are the symptoms of social anxiety?
  3. When to get help for social anxiety
  4. Social anxiety in children

While some people can't wait to get back into cinemas, cafes and have a social life again, there are those of us who feel far less sure of ourselves re-entering that world.

All being well, restrictions will continue to be lifted in the weeks and months to come, allowing us slowly to return to some kind of “normal”.

This is good news for the economy and employment, and will hopefully help ease the high levels of distress and mental health problems our community has been experiencing during the pandemic.

For some people, however, the idea of reconnecting with the outside world may provoke other anxieties.

What is Social anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations.

It's a common problem that usually starts during the teenage years. It can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life.

For some people it gets better as they get older. But for many people it does not go away on its own without treatment.

It's important to get help if you are having symptoms. There are treatments that can help you manage it.

What are the symptoms of Social anxiety?

Social anxiety is more than shyness. It's a fear that does not go away and affects everyday activities, self confidence, relationships and work or school life.

You may have social anxiety if you:

  • Stay away from places where there are other people
  • Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
  • Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
  • Are self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
  • Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
  • Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
  • Are very afraid that other people will judge them

Things you can try to overcome social anxiety.

Self-help can help reduce social anxiety and you might find it a useful first step before trying other treatments.

These following tips may help:

  • try to understand more about your anxiety – by thinking about or writing down what goes through your mind and how you behave in certain social situations, it can help to keep a diary
  • try some relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises for stress
  • break down challenging situations into smaller parts and work on feeling more relaxed with each part
  • try to focus on what people are saying rather than just assuming the worst

When to get help for social anxiety

Read more about anxiety, fear and panic and how to manage them.

You can listen to the 6-minute anxiety control training audio guide. Dr Chris Williams talks about how to relax and beat your anxieties, today and in the long term.

You may also find it useful to read an NHS self-help guide for social anxiety.

Social anxiety in children

Social anxiety can also affect children.

Signs of social anxiety in a child include:

  • crying or getting upset more often than usual
  • getting angry a lot
  • avoiding interaction with other children and adults
  • fear of going to school or taking part in classroom activities, school performances and social events
  • not asking for help at school
  • being very reliant on their parents or carer

Speak to a GP if you're worried about your child. They'll ask you about your child's behaviour and talk to them about how they feel.

Treatments for social anxiety in children are similar to those for teenagers and adults, although medicines are not normally used.

Therapy will be tailored to your child's age and will often involve help from you.

Urgent support

If you cannot wait to see a doctor and feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, it's important to get support.

Get urgent support now

In a life-threatening emergency, phone the emergency services and ask for an ambulance.

Call 999

Useful links

Here are some small steps you can take to keep on top of our mental wellbeing and cope during times of uncertainty.