Take the Social Anxiety Quiz
How anxious you are in social situations? Take our free social anxiety quiz to find out. It only takes about one minute to complete. Your personalized results will be shown when you complete the quiz. This quiz is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition including anxiety. Only a qualified medical professional can do that.
This simple quiz will tell you how much you have in common with someone who regularly experiences symptoms of social phobia. Each of the 21 scenarios below are all commonly experienced by someone who has moderate to severe anxiety in social situations.
Disclaimer: This test is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any mental health issues. Only a qualified medical professional can accurately diagnose social phobia. This quiz will tell you how much you have in common with people who experience social anxiety. It is for personal use only. By taking the quiz, you agree and understand the above terms.
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is a mental health condition in which someone has an extreme fear of getting involved in social interaction with both known and unknown people. This condition is characterized by self-consciousness, embarrassment, and intense nervousness due to the fear of being watched and criticized by others.
Statistics provided by the Social Anxiety Association reveal that this condition is the third most prevalent mental condition on earth. Research led by Kessler RC and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry show that 7% of the world’s population is suffering from some kind of social phobia. This condition hinders people from pursuing their goals and aspirations; it stops them from taking on new responsibilities at work and prevents them from building great relationships with their friends and family members.
Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
The causes of SAD have not been thoroughly established by research studies. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, since it is a mental health condition, it is most likely caused by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Some of the proposed causes include: traits inherited from parents, brain structure, and early childhood experiences. Scientists have observed that anxiety disorders may be found among members of the same family. Although it is not clear whether this is entirely caused by transferred genes or learned behavior.
Similarly, the part of the brain called the amygdala, which is the center for emotions and emotional reactions, could play a vital role in managing the intense fear in people with SAD. People with a hyperactive amygdala tend to experience greater fear when interacting with people. Anxiety disorders may also develop in people who have observed the trait in others and parents who tend to over protect their children may unwittingly aid the development of social phobia in them.
Distinction Between Social Anxiety and Similar Conditions
Social anxiety disorder should be not be mistaken for other anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder. People who suffer from GAD experience consistent worries and fears that distract them from their normal activities and they have a persistent feeling that a terrible thing will happen to them. Panic disorder, on the other hand, always makes people feel that they are going to have another “attack” on their health. So they tend to avoid public or confined places where they feel they will not find help.
However, social phobia symptoms usually come up when the sufferer is just about to meet with people or be in the spotlight.
Examples of Social Phobia
While defining social anxiety disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that virtually everyone will feel anxious or get embarrassed at different times when facing a crowd or delivering a speech to a large audience. But people with SAD will not only get embarrassed, they will worry about it long before it happens. People with SAD are usually afraid to do normal things in the presence of other people. For instance, the thought of signing a check at the cashier’s desk, eating in the presence of others, or using a public bathroom at the gym may bring up intense feelings of fear and anxiety.
What Does Social Anxiety Feel Like?
Social anxiety makes people feel as if they are going to be evaluated negatively each time they appear in a social situation, meeting, or public gathering. The fear of being criticized is so intense that it hinders their performance in normal day-to-day activities and it makes them obsessed with their inability to conquer their fears. Some of the common feelings experienced by people with SAD include:
Social anxiety can make people feel as if they are being watched by every single person within their vicinity. This makes them become too conscious of what they do around other people. Thus, they are too concerned about how they dress, look, walk and move. Typically, a person with this mental condition will constantly harbor thoughts like: “I look funny don’t I? Why are people staring at me?” People with SAD can easily become obsessed with their perceived ideas about how people see them.
Afraid to Become the Center of Attraction
No one with social anxiety will cherish the opportunity to stand in front of a large crowd and make a speech. In fact, the mere thought of becoming the center of attention will cause them to be gripped with intense fear. Suddenly, they may start to show certain signs and symptoms like sweating, shaking hands and legs, and weakening of their voice. Although they may be quite good at concealing their anxiety, they still get extremely worried about people discovering it.
Lack of Self Confidence with Hesitation
Low self esteem is a common characteristic of people with social anxiety. This holds them back and causes them to avoid getting involved in social discussions or building lasting relationships. Any situation that exposes them to criticism is carefully avoided. Due to frequent avoidance of social situations, such people do not have a chance to experience life to the fullest. Many opportunities to get new jobs are lost because socially challenging situations like interviews are avoided.
Depression and Fear of Future Events
Social anxiety makes people to become obsessed with the outcome of future events and unfortunately, such thoughts are usually negative. Such obsession with upcoming events can cripple a person for many weeks and make it difficult for him or her to experience any joy or peace of mind. Excessive worry creates a vicious cycle, which can lead to emotional paralysis and depression.
Undue Sensitivity to Criticism
Most of the worry and anxiety experienced by people with social phobia is quite irrational. Through repeated meditation on negative thoughts, the brain becomes skewed in a negative direction and makes the sufferer hyper-sensitive to minimal evaluation or criticism. Simple advice is perceived as a criticism of their actions and generally they become self-defensive. Social anxiety prevents people from exposing themselves to situations where they will be corrected and this hinders them from gaining vital social skills.
How is Social Anxiety Diagnosed?
The first step to take if you need treatment for social anxiety disorder is to get a diagnosis. During diagnosis, your physician will try to discover whether your social anxiety is linked to other conditions or whether you have more than one mental disorder. To have a successful diagnosis, you should take note of the following points.
Plan to Get Your Condition Diagnosed
Look for a reputable mental health care provider who understands the peculiar nature and feelings of people with SAD. Take some time to write down in detail all the problems you have been having with social situations. Make a full description of recurrent experiences that make you feel you need treatment for SAD. Take a family member or friend along with you. Due to social anxiety, you may not always express yourself freely. But your companion can help to boost your self confidence. Ensure that the therapist is patient enough to listen to you carefully and with empathy.
Fill a Screening Questionnaire
During the process of diagnosis, your doctor or therapist may ask you to complete a screening questionnaire or conduct an oral screening interview for you. Most of the questions asked like: “Are you troubled by fear of being humiliated?, Do you go to great lengths to avoid participating in social situations?”, will help the doctor to know if you have obvious signs and symptoms of SAD. The results obtained from the interview or questionnaire will help your doctor to determine whether you need further diagnosis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, after your physician has decided that you need further assessment, he or she may do a physical examination to locate any physical causes of your SAD symptoms. You may be required to describe the number of times your symptoms occur and provide more details about the situations in which they occur. In some cases, you will be presented with some social situations that will help the doctor to know if they will trigger social anxiety.
Criteria for Diagnosis
Many mental health experts who treat cases of social anxiety often use the criteria provided by the APA – American Psychiatric Association for proper diagnosis of mental disorders. The latest version of these criteria was published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders. Criteria included in the fifth edition of the DSM include:
- Fear and anxiety that cannot be properly explained by any medical condition or substance abuse.
- Distress or anxiety that hinders normal daily living.
- Anxiety that is not proportional to the situation that triggered it.
- Avoidance of social situations that can lead to anxiety.
- Persistent fear (that lasts for 6 months or more) about social situations where you feel you will be criticized.
Common Symptoms of SAD
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder need to be distinguished from feelings of discomfort or shyness that occur in everyone who is faced with new social situations. The ability to adapt instantly and remain comfortable in different social settings varies based on individual temperament and behavioral traits. But Mayo Clinic classifies symptoms of SAD into three distinct groups: behavioral and emotional symptoms, physical symptoms, and avoidance of social situations that hinders normal day-to-day activities.
Physical Signs of SAD
Physical symptoms may follow social anxiety in some people. The common signs include: blushing, excessive sweating, trembling, abdominal distress, nausea, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, light-headedness, headaches, diarrhea, muscle tension, loss of self control, and confusion. A good example of the physical symptoms of social anxiety can occur when a sufferer goes to a meeting late. Instantly he starts sweating, he becomes nervous and self conscious. Throughout the meeting, he cannot sit still, he trembles as he takes notes and when the time comes for him to make an important contribution that he has rehearsed with his departmental staff, he simply keeps silent.
Behavioral and Emotional Symptoms
Some of the behavioral and emotional symptoms of SAD are also linked with the physical symptoms. For instance, serious embarrassment may occur due to fear of sweating, blushing and trembling. Other types of fear connected with social anxiety include: fear of circumstances in which you may be scrutinized, fear of humiliating yourself, fear of talking with strangers, and fear that other people will notice that you are anxious. These fears usually result in avoidance of situations where people will focus on you like giving a presentation, speech or serving as a steward in a social gathering.
Staying Away from Social Situations
Social anxiety can lead to avoidance of normal everyday activities that involve social interaction. Examples of these include: walking on a sidewalk on a crowded street, going to school or work, attending parties, dating, starting a conversation, making and maintaining proper eye contact during a conversation, eating in a restaurant in front of other diners, making a conversation with strangers on the phone or in person, and using a restroom in a public place or gym.
Selective Nature of SAD Disorder
Social anxiety symptoms can be quite selective, some people could have a strong fear of giving a speech because they think that every thing they say will be negatively scrutinized by listeners and the press. But they may perform well in a small group with familiar faces. Other people may experience a fear of meeting with a salesperson in their neighborhood because of what they think about their neighbors, but they may haggle well with a salesman when they travel to an Asian country on vacation.
Social anxiety symptoms may vary in their intensity. Sometimes they may flare up during periods of stress or serious demands. Although staying away from social situations may dampen these symptoms, it is better to get them treated quickly so they don’t become very persistent and difficult to deal with in the long term.
Can Social Anxiety Be Cured?
Social anxiety is a mental disorder and by nature it involves a complex interplay of mental, emotional and physical functions in a person. Its actual causes are also not clearly established like the cause of a viral or bacterial infection. So it is not scientifically proper to use the word “cure” with respect to social anxiety. There is currently no single pill or “magic bullet” approach to handling this condition. However, this condition has been treated in many people who have experienced varying levels of success in overcoming their anxiety based on their commitment to the process of therapy and consistency in the use of any recommended medication.
It is important to note that when it comes to using medication to treat mental disorders, what works perfectly for one person may not necessarily work for another. Most medication used for treating mental disorders have side effects such as sedation and dizziness, some are even habit forming, while others work for a while and then the body stops responding to them. So it is best to work with an experienced therapist who has treated different people with varying degrees of social anxiety. You should also be patient enough to experience the positive effect of these medications, which are usually administered in small doses to prevent the occurrence of any unpleasant side effects.
If you are ready to put in your best and confront the fears that are inhibiting and tormenting you, you will discover that you can overcome your social anxiety faster. Most morbid fears are caused by the fear of uncertainty. So as long as you are ready to go ahead and deal with the fear of being criticized, you will soon discover that your fears are baseless and you should not pay much attention to them.
Treatments Available for SAD
Mental health professionals use a combination of medication and psychological counseling to treat social anxiety. This works well for people with general anxiety or fear about virtually all social situations. Where there is selective or mild social anxiety that involves just one aspect like public speaking, psychological counseling is usually sufficient to overcome such fears. However, if the social anxiety disorder has been left undiagnosed for many years and it is now connected to other mental disorders like depression and substance abuse, medication may include more anti-depressants and counseling may be required for a longer period of time, depending on the results of diagnosis.
Various kinds of medications are now used to treat people with SAD. The most common are SSRIs – Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – such as Sertraline and Paroxetine. Most physicians recommend low doses of this drugs to minimize their side effects. Where physical symptoms of SAD such as irregular breathing, heart pounding and trembling are very rampant, your doctor may recommend beta blockers. They are best used for short term effects or just before a major social outing. Due to their effects on the cardiovascular system, they are seldom used for long term treatment of social anxiety. Some doctors also use anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines, which have a very short impact on your mood. Ordinarily, this kind of medication should be used sparingly to prevent abuse since it sedates the user.
Professional psychological counseling is necessary because medications can help to reduce the anxiety symptoms but they do not remove the underlying cause of the social anxiety disorder. That is why doctors start with medication but spend more time on counseling and development of a new lifestyle that will enable the patient to confront their fears and gradually overcome the fear of social situations that they used to avoid.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most widely used form of professional counseling to overcome social anxiety. This form of therapy also includes exposure therapy that encourages them to confront their most dreaded social situations with the assistance of the counselor. Other vital aspects included in CBT are: cognitive restructuring, symptom management, and social skills training. Exposure therapy helps you to imagine that you are face-to-face with a social situation and you are able to interact successfully without fear. Your counselor may follow you to a restaurant and eat with you so you can overcome your fear of eating out.
In the same vein, CBT will provide an opportunity to acquire the skills needed to cope with most social situations through preparation and role playing. Social skills training helps you to overcome your fears by getting prepared for various types of social situations. During cognitive restructuring, you learn how to spot a negative thought and replace it with a positive one. It also involves learning how to use techniques like meditation to keep your mind focused on positive things. Similarly, symptom management skills enable you to minimize stress through deep breathing techniques – it is a physical method for controlling your fears.
The combination of medication and psychotherapy will only be effective when you are ready to make several personal lifestyle changes. First, you should ensure that you participate regularly in aerobic exercises. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) says that scientists have discovered that participation in regular aerobic exercise decreases tension levels, stabilizes your mood, helps you to sleep better, and boosts your self-esteem. Just five minutes of aerobic exercise daily can result in anti-anxiety effects.
In addition to regular exercise, you also need to improve the quality of your nutrition to overcome social anxiety. Eat more whole foods and less of processed and packaged foods. Plan for a diet rich in nutrients like vitamin A, B Complex, C, E, D and omega-3 fatty acids that help your brain to function effectively. You should eat more tree nuts, fresh fruits and green vegetables while you lower your consumption of foods like pastry, bread, pasta, and white rice that can spike your blood sugar and hinder the proper functioning of the brain.
Meditation is another effective technique that will help you to gain quicker victory over your fears. Psychologists have discovered that humans act in line with their most dominant thoughts. That is why goal setting is an essential aspect of any successful venture. Meditation is a powerful technique used to bring yourself into a state of consciousness so that your mind is free of disjointed thoughts and unwanted thought patterns. It helps you to focus on exactly what you want and it can be used to imagine yourself overcoming your fears and mastering all the social situations you used to avoid. The best time to practice mediation is early in the morning, just after you wake up. Developing a habit of meditating for 10 to 20 minutes daily on: strength rather than weakness, power instead of fear, and acceptance instead of rejection will help you to conquer your anxiety.
Take Little Steps Towards Overcoming SAD
You can overcome your social anxiety permanently, if you take small steps towards your goal every day. Identify the situations that create the greatest fear and then practice simple social situations till you eventually prevail over your anxiety. For instance, you can eat with a friend or family member in a public place. Practice making eye contact and be the first person to greet others. Step out of your fears and give people sincere compliments. If you usually find it difficult to relate with strangers, practice asking strangers to give you directions to a place you already know. Ask people about their relatives, jobs, hobbies, sports teams, and other things that interest them.
Get Prepared for Social Gatherings
Mayo Clinic recommends that you prepare for social conversations by reading the local newspaper to discover a topic that you can discuss about. Focus more the personal traits you like about yourself. Practice stress relieving techniques like deep breathing and set achievable goals to overcome your anxiety and start doing things you used to run away from.
How Can I Get Help for Social Anxiety?
It is far easier to get treatment for your social anxiety now than it was a few decades ago. A lot of research has been done to identify the main symptoms of the diseases as well as effective procedures for treatment.
Take time to read every well-written article on social anxiety disorder. Watch videos posted on this condition and ask questions whenever there is opportunity to give feedback. Study the symptoms of SAD and ensure that your condition is social anxiety disorder and not shyness that most humans will feel when an unexpected social situation arises.
Prepare to see your doctor or a mental health specialist
If you are certain that you have social anxiety and this condition has been with you for a minimum of six months, book an appointment with your doctor or a mental health specialist that has a reputation for treating social anxiety cases. Before you see your physician, write down all the symptoms you have experienced and how long you have had them. Describe the social events that trigger the greatest amount of fear in you. List out any questions you want to ask your doctor and be prepared to let him know all you can about your medical and family history.
Use prescribed medication and attend counseling sessions
When you doctor recommends any treatment method or prescribes medicines to you, please take them consistently. Keep all appointments with your therapist and practice little lifestyle changes every day. It takes long term commitment to overcome social anxiety, so be prepared to stick with the recommended treatment methods until they produce the desired results.
Join a support group
It is important to join a social anxiety support forum so you can read about how other people have overcome their anxiety. Since social anxiety varies from person to person, it is important to learn from people who have had experiences that are similar to yours. You will also be able to learn some of the self-help techniques that have helped people to develop social skills and conquer their fear of social situations.
Commonly Asked Questions About Social Anxiety
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about this mental condition:
Shyness is a common characteristic of people with social anxiety but mere shyness is not social anxiety. Shyness makes it difficult for people to speak when they are in front of strangers or when they are not well prepared. It also causes people to be maltreated because they can’t express their feelings effectively. However, all humans experience some form of shyness at some point in life but that does not mean that they have social anxiety.
The key factors that differentiate shyness from social anxiety are the extreme fear that makes it virtually impossible for people to overcome their shyness, the deep fear of being judged criticized and evaluated any time they assume a performance role like making a speech and the extremely low self esteem that hinders them from participating actively in social situations.
Yes, it is possible to be outgoing (or an extrovert) and still have social anxiety. Being outgoing is a personality trait that is innate. Being an introvert or an extrovert has no bearing on social anxiety; it is mental health disorder and extroverts may experience it too. An outgoing person may be energized by the external world which include people and physical things. But they can still be anxious about being judged negatively any time they become the center of attention. An extrovert does not have to demonstrate all the symptoms of social anxiety but if there is a constant agony, fear and some physical symptoms like trembling each time the spotlight is on them, social anxiety could be present.
Natural remedies are available for social anxiety. Some are natural supplements while others are simply tools or actions that have helped to reduce anxiety. But just like prescription drugs and other well known types of therapy, you should consult your doctor before you use any of them. Some of the well known natural remedies include: GABA, and lavender oil. GABA is gamma-aminobutyric acid – a brain transmitter, which inhibits the function of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that raises your excitability. Lavender essential oil can bring instant calm when the vapor is inhaled. Rubbing it on your collar bone or temple can calm you down when you are getting anxious. Similarly, laughter can be used as a therapy because according to Dr Lynn Cassiday of the ADAA, hearty laughter gives you an instant dose of dopamine, which controls feelings of reward and pleasure. So put a laughter app on your smart phone and use it to reduce your anxiety.
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