Skip to content
Home » Blog » Symptoms for Social Anxiety Disorder: Just Nerves or Something Bigger?

Symptoms for Social Anxiety Disorder: Just Nerves or Something Bigger?


    It’s normal to feel uncomfortable or nervous in certain social situations. Maybe you are meeting your partner’s parents for the first time, hanging out with a new group of friends, or even giving a presentation to an audience of your peers. Feeling a little bit nervous can help us stay alert and cue our minds to stay focused on the task at hand. However, what about when our feelings of anxiety and jitters start to disrupt our daily lives? When this is the case, it may be time to look a little bit deeper into these feelings. Let’s learn about symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

    If you feel shy or uncomfortable in social situations, it does not necessarily indicate a social anxiety disorder. Comfort in social settings and around different groups of people varies by personality, upbringing, and life experiences. You may naturally be quieter and more reserved in social settings.  Perhaps you may feel the most “at home” when you are the center of attention in large groups.

    Social anxiety disorder is characterized by feelings of fear, avoidance, and intense anxiety.  These feelings interfere with daily routines, work, relationships, and activities you are interested in. While social anxiety generally starts in late childhood or early adulthood, it can present itself at any time.

    How to Identify Social Anxiety Disorder

    Social anxiety disorder will present itself in different ways for different people.  However, certain behavioral and physical symptoms can help you determine if you are experiencing normal nerves.  They can help you decide if you may benefit from professional help to combat symptoms of social anxiety and gain confidence in social settings.

    When looking at behavioral symptoms, the following are characteristic of social anxiety disorder:

    • Intense fear of situations where you feel you may be judged. You may spend hours after the event thinking about a specific behavior or thing you said and feeling that others were judging you.
    • Worrying about embarrassing yourself.
    • Waves of intense fear when interacting with strangers or thinking about interacting with strangers.
    • Concern that others can tell you feel nervous or uncomfortable in social situations.
    • Feeling anxiety leading up to a social event that is consuming.
    • Continual analysis of your actions and activities during a social event, often seen in a negative light.
    • Avoidance of activities or interactions for fear they will go badly.
    • Intense fear of being the center of attention.
    • Expecting the worst outcomes in social events.
    • Convincing yourself that everyone dislikes you and does not want you to be present.
    • Negative thoughts continually throughout the duration of an event.

    symptoms for social anxiety disorder


    Remember, some of these symptoms may be present in the occasional social interaction or setting.  However, consistently experiencing these symptoms is a sign you may be experiencing social anxiety disorder. In addition to these behavioral symptoms, the following physical symptoms may also be present:

    • Blushing
    • Shaking
    • Trembling voice
    • Feeling nauseous or dizzy
    • Lightheadedness
    • Being unable to think clearly
    • Tensing muscles
    • Sweating
    • Racing heartbeat

    If you experience the following symptoms during social interactions, you may find yourself avoiding social interactions. Often, they can be triggered by certain aspects of social interaction, such as making eye contact or going on dates. Experienced mental health professionals can help you come up with tactics to reduce these symptoms and develop tricks to minimize them.

    When and Why Does Social Anxiety Occur?

    Social anxiety disorder symptoms are not constant, and you may go through phases when they are more minor or more severe. Often, symptoms can increase in intensity if you are experiencing high stress in other areas of your life. While avoidance may be a short-term solution, it will not treat the root of the experience.

    symptoms for social anxiety  


    Family history: anxiety disorders are often present in multiple people in the same family Whether this is due to genetics or environment is unknown. If members of the family model symptoms of social anxiety disorder, it may also increase the likelihood of children developing these traits.

    Brain anatomy: Recent findings have shown that the region of the brain known as the amygdala plays a large part in our anxiety and fear responses. Depending on how active your amygdala is, you may find yourself having increased likelihood for social anxiety.

    Previous experiences: Social anxiety may potentially be a learned behavior due to previous embarrassing or traumatic experiences. If you experienced bullying, rejection, teasing, or humiliation, you are more likely to develop symptoms of social anxiety disorder. 

    Changing lifestyle. If you change jobs or location, it is possible for symptoms of social anxiety to emerge as you adjust to your new lifestyle. Changes in life responsibilities such as now having to meet new people, give speeches, or other new tasks can also trigger new symptoms.

    Changing appearance. If you look differently than you did previously in your life, either through natural causes or a traumatic experience, social anxiety disorder may emerge as the result of increased attention for those around you. Feelings of self-consciousness can trigger social anxiety disorder, and it may take time to adjust to a new normal.

    How to Manage Social Anxiety Disorder

    Managing social anxiety disorder can be tricky, but getting professional help can provide tangible ways to navigate your individual experiences and reduce the impact of your symptoms. Daily rituals such as journaling your experiences, practicing mindfulness, taking small steps every day to push your comfort level, and avoiding substance use or other unhealthy behaviors can help you lessen anxiety levels over time.

    At the end of the day, we all want to feel our best in our daily lives. We each have our own struggles, and understanding which experiences are causing strife in your everyday activities can help you identify them and take steps to improve your experience. Taking care of your mental health is a lifelong journey, and each small step will lead to significant impacts over time.  

    Jocelyn Burridge is a published academic author.  She has a passion for writing unbiased, statistically supported articles that explain complex health topics in easy-to-understand ways.  Jocelyn has a passion for health and wellness. She aims to promote information related to the importance of mental health in her personal and professional life. Outside of her work in mental health, she is a certified yoga instructor and USAG gymnastics coach. Consequently, she often incorporates meditation and the mind-body connection into her classes.