10 Signs that You Might Have Social Anxiety
Does any event where you have to interact with people leave you feeling more awkward than that dance scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Here are some signs you might have social anxiety to blame.
I have a 4-year-old, so I’ve seen “Frozen” well over a hundred times. An interesting fact you might not know about this story is that Elsa was originally supposed to be the villain. But the makers of the movie had so much sympathy for the character, that they couldn’t bring themselves to call her one. So they ended up changing the story so that Elsa was Anna’s sister instead.
I think a lot of us girls with anxiety can sympathize with Elsa too. She spends her entire life terrified of interacting with people. Terrified that she’ll do the wrong thing. The anxiety Elsa feels before her coronation, right down to her shaking hands, is probably a pretty familiar scene to a lot of perfectionist girls out there. And how many of us haven’t wanted to run out of the room after a making a highly visible mistake?
If you think about it, the words to “Let it Go” might as well be an anxious girl’s anthem:
“Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know”
If you’re like Elsa, and the idea of being around people or making a public mistake is enough to keep you locked in your room for the next 10 years, there’s a name for that. Here are some of the signs that your fears might actually stem from social anxiety.
1. Fear of situations where you might be judged
Think class presentations, asking someone out, or going to an interview. It’s normal to be nervous before things like that. But if those sound like a solid “nope” to you, you might have social anxiety to blame.
I love talking to people one on one or in small groups. But put me in front of a group of people, and I will literally black out. I’ve been working on it this past year *gulp*, but I still get nauseous for like a month before an event where I’m going to have to speak. True story.
2. You might have social anxiety if you worry about embarrassing yourself
Oh my God, have those black beans been in my teeth all day?!
It is impossible for any human being to be perfect all of the time. Literally all of us have embarrassed ourselves before. (Some of us on a daily basis, thank you very much!) Interestingly enough, people who are easily embarrassed tend to be seen as kinder and more generous by others. But that doesn’t mean it’s a fun feeling.
3. Intense fear of talking to strangers
Placing an order for food, returning something at the store, asking someone for directions… If situations like this make your heart pound, you might have social anxiety. We’re taught from a young age not to talk to strangers, but some interaction with strangers is necessary in daily life.
My mom always made me do these things for myself when I was growing up. It was so frustrating at the time, but I’m glad she made me face it. You have no idea how many friends have made me return clothes for them because they were too embarrassed to do it!
4. You might have social anxiety if you’re afraid of physical symptoms
If you ask me, the physical symptoms are the worst part of anxiety. Here are the most common:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Trouble catching your breath
- Mind going blank
- Muscle tension
Any of these sound familiar?
5. Fear that others will notice your anxiety
Ooh, another fun layer on the anxiety cake! If you have social anxiety, not only do you feel anxious about being judged or making a fool of yourself, you’re also worried that other people will NOTICE that you’re blushing, sweating, and shaking. So fun!
Want to feel more confident when you talk to people? Check it!
6. Anxiety before an activity or event
If you do end up accidentally agreeing to go to some social thing, do you instantly regret it? If you’re practically relieved when the overwhelming nausea hits because now you can cancel saying you’re sick and it’s technically not even a lie, ya might have some social anxiety going on.
7. You might have social anxiety if you expect the worst to happen
When you have social situation coming up, do you always picture the worst case scenario? What if I get food on my face? What if he makes me laugh and my drink shoots out of nose? (That literally happened to me btw!) What if I act weird and it gets awkward and he escapes out the bathroom window, 90’s sitcom style? And so forth.
8. Avoiding potentially embarrassing situations
Do you find yourself avoiding social situations altogether? If you find yourself automatically saying no to dates, dances, parties, or other “fun” events, you might have social anxiety.
Being embarrassed is not fun (I would know!), but avoiding situations to avoid embarrassing yourself can actually be worse. If you avoid cool opportunities or avoid getting help for yourself out of fear of embarrassment, it can end up costing you long term.
9. Avoiding situations where you’ll be center of attention
You might have social anxiety if you know the answer, but there is no way you would ever volunteer to solve the problem on the board. If you’re worried about making a fool out of yourself in front of one person, imagine how much fun it will be with everyone looking at you! Nope.
10. Criticizing yourself after an event
After interactions with people, do you find yourself reviewing the tape and cursing every stupid thing you said?
Them: “Happy Birthday!”
Me: “Thanks! You too!” *facepalm*
Criticizing your performance after social events might be a sign of social anxiety. If it helps, research shows that observers never judge people as harshly as they judge themselves for their mistakes.
Related: How to Beat the Bully in Your Head
If a lot of these signs are sounding familiar, my dear, it sounds like you’re probably dealing with some social anxiety. That’s not a fun thing to hear, but I do have some good news for you. Social anxiety is a thing that you can get help for. Don’t let anxiety limit your life or your chances for success. The sooner you get help to deal with social anxiety, the easier it will be for you to overcome it. Channel your inner Elsa and learn how to “let it go”.