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  • Writer's pictureJasmine Wilson, LCSW

Understanding Social Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Updated: Apr 9

Many of us have experienced social anxiety at some point in our lives. It's a feeling of nervousness or worry that appears in social situations, like meeting new people or speaking in front of a group. For some, though, it's not just nervousness; it’s severe anxiety, intense fear, or avoidance of situations that involve the possibility of being negatively evaluated. In this case social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) may be present.


Imagine feeling really worried before giving a presentation or making a phone call. Your heart starts to race, you anticipate all the things that can go wrong, your palms get sweaty, and then your mind goes blank. That's what it's like for someone with social anxiety. But instead of just happening occasionally, it happens very frequently and can make everyday activities extremely difficult.


In this blog, we're going to explore social anxiety: what causes it, how it shows up, and what can be done to treat it. Understanding social anxiety is the first step in learning how to manage it and Therapy for Anxiety in Brea, CA can be helpful in move forward from it. So, let's explore together.


Causes of Social Anxiety


Social anxiety isn't caused by just one thing – there is a combination of factors that might make someone more prone to experiencing social anxiety, including:


Genetic Predisposition


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Sometimes, social anxiety can run in families. If someone in your family has a history, you might be more likely to develop it too.


Environmental Factors 


The world around us can play a big role in social anxiety. For example, someone may be more likely to pick up such tendencies through modeling if they are raised in a home where socially anxious behaviors are common. While there is no causative relationship between adverse childhood experiences and social anxiety, experiencing child abuse or adversity can increase one’s risk of developing social anxiety.


Psychological Influences


Our thoughts and feelings also play a part in social anxiety. For example, if someone has low self-esteem or constantly worries about what others think of them, they might be more prone to feeling anxious in social situations.


Symptoms of Social Anxiety


Social anxiety can show up in different ways, and everyone's experience is unique. But there are some common signs to look out for:


Physical Symptoms: These are things you can feel in your body, including:

  • Racing heart

  • Sweaty palms

  • Shaky hands or voice

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

  • Nausea or upset stomach


Emotional Symptoms: These are feelings you might experience:

  • Intense fear or worry about social situations

  • Feeling embarrassed or self-conscious

  • Being overly concerned about making mistakes or being judged by others

  • Feeling like everyone is watching you or talking about you


Behavioral Symptoms: These are things you might do or not do because of social anxiety:

  • Avoiding social situations or places where you might be negatively evaluated

  • Having difficulty speaking up or expressing yourself

  • Feeling like you need to suddenly need to escape or leave a situation

  • Using substances like alcohol or drugs to reduce anxiety in social situations


It's important to remember that social anxiety isn't just a feeling of nervousness or shyness sometimes – it's a recurring feeling of fear, anxiety, or avoidance that interferes with your daily life.


Biological Basis of Social Anxiety


Now, let's talk about what's happening in our brains when we feel socially anxious. It's pretty fascinating!


Our brains are like big, busy command centers that control everything we do, including how we feel. When it comes to social anxiety, certain parts of the brain seem to be involved.


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One of these parts is called the amygdala, which is like our brain's alarm system. It's responsible for detecting threats and triggering our "fight or flight" response when we're in danger. In people with social anxiety, the amygdala might be extra sensitive to social cues, like someone's facial expression or tone of voice, and interpret them as threats even when they're not.


Another part of the brain that's involved is the prefrontal cortex, which is like our brain's CEO. It helps us think logically and make decisions. In people with social anxiety, the prefrontal cortex might not be as good at calming down the amygdala when it gets too worked up. This leads to more intense feelings of anxiety.


There's also something called neurotransmitters, which are like messengers in our brains that help different parts communicate with each other. Some neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine, play a role in mood and anxiety. In people with social anxiety, there might be imbalances in these neurotransmitters. This can contribute to feelings of anxiety.


So, social anxiety isn't just something we can "snap out of" – it's rooted in the biology of our brains. Understanding these biological factors can help us have more compassion for ourselves and others who struggle with social anxiety. And knowing that it's not just in our heads can be the first step toward finding ways to manage it.


Anxiety Treatment Options


Now that we understand social anxiety better, let's talk about treatment options. Remember, finding the right treatment for social anxiety requires an individualized approach. This may involve some combination of the following options:


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Therapy


Therapy can provide a safe, supportive space for you to talk about your struggles with social anxiety and to start finding solutions. One type of therapy that's often used for social anxiety is called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, you learn how to change negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety. Another type of therapy is exposure therapy, where you gradually face your fears in a safe and supportive environment with the help of an anxiety therapist.


Medications


Treatment for social anxiety may also include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. These medications can help reduce feelings of anxiety and make it easier to cope with social situations. As always, it's important to talk to a doctor before starting any medication to understand the risks and benefits.


Self-Help Strategies 


There are also things you can do on your own to manage social anxiety. This could include practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or mindfulness, challenging negative thoughts, and gradually facing your fears in small steps. It can also be helpful to take care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly which helps support general stress management for reduced anxiety.


Support Groups


Being around other people who understand what you're going through can be extremely helpful. Support groups are communities of people who are dealing with similar challenges with whom you can share your experiences, seek advice, and learn from. You can find support groups online or in your local community.


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Move Past your Social Anxiety through Therapy for Anxiety in Brea, CA Today!


Understanding social anxiety is the first step toward learning how to manage it and feeling better. As we learned today, social anxiety is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. These factors can affect various aspects of one’s daily life. While living with social anxiety presents its challenges, there are many treatment options. These include Therapy for Anxiety in Brea, CA, medication, self-help strategies, and/or support groups. Remember, you're not alone, and with the right help, you can overcome social anxiety and lead a fulfilling life. Follow the steps below to get started here at Adaptive Resolutions Counseling Services:



Other Therapy Services Offered at Adaptive Resolutions Counseling Services in Brea, La Mirada, and Online Throughout CA + AZ


At Adaptive Resolutions Counseling Services, I offer a variety of services tailored to your individual needs. In addition to Therapy for Anxiety in Brea, CA, I specialize in Therapy for Life Transitions and Therapy for Self-Esteem. I also offer personalized approaches to support your journey. Whether you prefer Individual Therapy or Group Therapy, my goal is to help you improve your anxiety and navigate social situations with confidence. Reach out today to discover more about my services and how I can support you in freeing yourself of anxiety and living a happier life!


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