Social Anxiety

Updated: July 23, 2022

Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is a mental health condition characterised by intense fear and discomfort in social situations. Individuals with this disorder often worry about being judged or embarrassed, leading to avoidance of social interactions and potential impairment in daily life.

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What Is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety, or social phobia, is a pervasive psychological condition where individuals experience overwhelming fear and anxiety in social situations. The fear is often centered around the worry of being scrutinised, judged, or humiliated by others. Even seemingly ordinary interactions, like conversations or public speaking, can trigger intense distress.


People with social anxiety may physically react with symptoms like rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, and nausea. The emotional toll can lead to isolation, as individuals often avoid social gatherings or situations that trigger their anxiety. This avoidance can hinder personal and professional growth, as well as impact self-esteem. Therapy and coping strategies can help manage social anxiety and improve quality of life.

What Are The Symptoms?

Avoidance Behaviour

Avoiding or minimizing social interactions and situations that trigger anxiety.

Difficulty Speaking

Struggling to speak or fearing that words won’t come out as intended.

Excessive Self-Consciousness

Constantly worrying about being judged, criticised, or embarrassed by others.

Intense Anxiety

Experiencing high levels of anxiety and fear before, during, and after social situations.


Withdrawing from social situations, leading to potential feelings of loneliness and depression.

Negative Self-Perception

Having low self-esteem, negative self-judgment, and feeling inadequate.


Overanalysing past interactions and anticipating future ones, often imagining worst-case scenarios.

Performance Anxiety

Intense fear of performing tasks in front of others, such as speaking, eating, or writing.

Physical Symptoms

Gastrointestinal distress, headaches, muscle tension, and dizziness due to heightened stress.

What Causes Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder can result from a combination of factors, including genetic, environmental, and psychological. These can create a heightened sensitivity to social interactions, leading to the development of the condition. It’s important to note that everyone’s experience is unique, and not everyone exposed to these factors will develop the disorder.

Genetics: There’s evidence that genetics may play a role, as social anxiety tends to run in families. Certain genetic traits may predispose individuals to be more sensitive to social stressors.

Brain Chemistry: Imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin, which regulates mood and anxiety, can contribute to the development of social anxiety.

Environmental Factors: Early life experiences, such as traumatic events or overly critical parenting, can increase vulnerability to social anxiety.

Social Learning: Observing others’ anxious behaviour or experiencing social rejection can contribute to developing a fear of social situations.

Personality Traits: Shyness, introversion, and perfectionism can increase the likelihood of developing social anxiety.

Negative Beliefs: Holding negative beliefs about oneself, fear of judgment, and expecting the worst outcomes in social situations can exacerbate social anxiety.

Cultural Factors: Societal pressures, cultural norms, and expectations can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in social contexts.

Neurobiological Factors: Brain regions responsible for threat perception and emotional regulation might be more reactive in individuals with social anxiety.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

Our therapists typically employ a multifaceted approach when working with those who experience social anxiety. This aims to help you manage symptoms and improve overall quality of life. Here’s an overview of how therapy might look:

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This is a common approach for treating social anxiety. We will help you identify negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to your anxiety. Through cognitive restructuring, these beliefs are challenged and replaced with more realistic and positive ones.

Exposure Therapy: Gradual exposure, another form of CBT, helps to navigate feared social situations in a controlled and supportive environment helps desensitise the anxiety response. Over time, this can lead to reduced fear and avoidance.

Social Skills Training: We aim to teach practical social skills, such as effective communication, assertiveness, and conflict resolution, to enhance confidence and the ability to manage social situations effectively.

Relaxation Techniques: Learning relaxation exercises, deep breathing, and mindfulness can help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety and increase your ability to stay calm in triggering situations.

Role-Playing: Practicing social interactions through role-playing in therapy allows you to rehearse and develop strategies for handling real-life situations.

Coping Strategies: We help individuals identify and develop coping mechanisms for managing anxiety, such as positive self-talk, visualisation, and thought-stopping techniques.

Self-Esteem Building: We have found that addressing self-esteem issues is often crucial in treating social anxiety. We will work with you to improve self-confidence and self-worth.

Homework Assignments: Between sessions, we may ask you to complete assignments, to practice new skills and confront your fears gradually, reinforcing what they’ve learned.

Supportive Environment: Our therapists create a safe and non-judgmental space where you can discuss your fears and progress, fostering trust and openness, which are important for the therapeutic relationship.


The specific approach will vary depending on your individual’s needs. Tailoring the treatment to your unique experiences and challenges is key to helping manage social anxiety effectively.

What Causes Social Anxiety?How Phinity Therapy Can Help


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