5 Myths About Social Anxiety Disorder

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Social anxiety is a common psychological problem, but it is not well understood by the general public and even by some professionals.

People who experience social anxiety feel as though they are being judged and evaluated when they are in social and performance situations. Although they know that the anxiety and fear that they feel is unwarranted, controlling or preventing the anxiety seems impossible.

If you always experience social anxiety when you are around other people, it can become very difficult to ever relax and be yourself around others.

When it feels like everyone is judging you, it sometimes seems easier just to avoid social situations altogether.

Often people who experience severe social anxiety believe that they are the only people in the world with the problem, and they do not tell anyone.

If you believe that you may have social anxiety, this article will help you to understand some of the myths about this type of fear and make a decision about getting help.

Myth #1: Social Anxiety Isn't That Common

Fact: Social anxiety is experienced by most people at some point in their lives.

Whether it was during a speech that they gave in high school, or when going for their first job interview, everyone gets butterflies once in a while.

Between 2% and 13% of the population is thought to have social anxiety to the point that it would be considered social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Myth #2: Social Anxiety Only Refers to Public Speaking Fears

Fact: Social anxiety refers to anxiety and fear in many different social and performance situations.

These may include formal events, such as public speaking and performing; informal speaking and interaction, such as meeting strangers or going to a party; difficult situations, such as expressing disagreement; and everyday events, such as eating in front of others.

The common thread among each of these triggers is that there is the potential of being evaluated.

Myth #3: Social Anxiety Just Means That You Feel Nervous

Fact: Social anxiety brings with it a collection of symptoms, only one of which is a feeling of nervousness.

If you suffer from social anxiety you will experience cognitive (thinking) problems, somatic (physical) problems, behavioral problems, and effective (emotional) problems.

For example, when meeting a stranger for the first time you might think to yourself:

"She must be able to tell that I'm a poor conversationalist."

Your hands might start to shake, you may feel like escaping the situation, and even feel hopeless about ever doing well socially.

Myth #4: Social Anxiety and Shyness Are the Same Things

Fact: Although social anxiety and shyness are very similar, they are not the same thing.

Social anxiety involves feelings of fear about social or performance situations, but it does not always involve the avoidance of, or withdrawal from, these situations.

Some people may appear to be very outgoing, but on the inside, they are terribly anxious and simply very good at hiding their feelings.

In contrast, those who are shy tend to withdraw from or avoid social contact because of feelings of social anxiety.

Myth #5: Social Anxiety Is a Problem That You Just Have to Learn to Live With

Fact: Whether your social anxiety prevents you from working or leaving the house or you have a specific fear that gets in the way of achieving goals, such as a fear of public speaking, there is hope and you don't have to just "learn to live with it."

With effective treatment, such as medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy, and proper management strategies, everyone has the potential to live life without social fears.

A Word From Verywell

Don't let myths and misconceptions about social anxiety stop you from getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. You don't have to manage your social anxiety alone. Help is available, including therapy, medication, and self-help strategies, to ensure the condition does not interfere with daily life.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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