How to deal with social anxiety?

Social anxiety can significantly impair our quality of life, especially if we never take adequate steps to overcome it. The more we isolate ourselves from other people and avoid social situations, the harder it will be for us to get back to other people’s company, and the disorder will have more and more control over us. Fortunately, social anxiety is not something invincible. We can work on it with a professional, such as a psychotherapist, we can take preventive steps to never get it or to reduce the symptoms.

What causes social anxiety?

There are a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing this disorder. Some of the most common risk factors are:

  • If we have some physical feature that attracts attention. We may have a scar on our face, or we may think we have a large or irregular nose. Maybe we just have extra pounds or we are a head taller than the people around us. All of this can create in us a feeling that we are constantly being watched and judged, which can lead to the development of social anxiety.
  • New social requirements and obligations or new obligations at work. This is one of the reasons why this disorder most often appears at puberty. We are suddenly overwhelmed with new responsibilities and meet a lot of new people, and we are extremely aware of our own appearance and shortcomings. The combination of these two elements makes us an easy target for disorders such as social anxiety.
  • Temperament. If we have always been withdrawn and prone to shyness, there is a significantly greater likelihood that we will develop this disorder.
  • Negative experiences. If we were often the victims of teasing, ridicule or even abuse in our youth, we are more likely to develop social anxiety later in life.
  • Family history. As the predisposition to anxiety is generally partly genetically determined, if some members of our family are struggling with this disorder, there is a chance that it will occur in us as well.

In addition to risk factors, there are specific reasons that can lead to the development of social anxiety. They rarely act alone, and are mostly interacting with each other.

  • Environmental factors: The way we perceive the world around us can influence the development of many mental disorders, including social anxiety. If we learn at an early age that social situations lead to humiliation or embarrassment and negative feelings in general, there is a high chance that we will later develop some form of anxiety disorder. We can learn this first hand, by watching others or through interaction with our parents.
  • Inherited traits: There are certain genes that make us more susceptible to developing various anxiety disorders. We inherit these genes from our parents, and they are very likely to occur in most of our family tree.
  • Brain structure: People with social anxiety have more activity in some parts of the brain, such as the amygdala, which is the part of the nervous system that we associate with fear. People without this disorder have a more active cortex, suggesting that their brains are more prone to assessing events, rather than reacting out of fear. People with this disorder also have different levels of activity of certain neurotransmitters (such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin).

Can we prevent social anxiety?

Of course, we cannot know exactly what awaits us in the future, but we can work on the prevention of social anxiety on a daily basis. This will not guarantee that we will never encounter this disorder, but at least we can reduce the likelihood of it occurring.

  • We need to avoid drug and alcohol abuse. Caffeine and nicotine can also negatively affect our anxiety.
  • We need to set clear life goals. A well-developed plan for what we want in life reduces anxiety and saves us time and energy. This way we will probably have more free time for the activities we enjoy.
  • Keep a diary. We experience things that happen to us in life differently once we see them written down on paper. Keeping a diary helps us, but also the psychotherapist, to identify what problems are currently bothering us.
  • Seek help as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the more power will anxiety have over us. As soon as you notice the first symptoms of social anxiety, seek professional help to cut the problem at the root.

What forms of help are available to us?

If attempts at prevention and independent work on social anxiety do not bear fruit, there are other forms of help to deal with this disorder.

  • Psychotherapy is extremely helpful in dealing with social anxiety. Probably the most effective form of therapy for anxiety disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy. In addition, exposure therapy and group therapy can also help us.
  • Support groups allow us to interact with other people in controlled conditions. Other individuals in the groups probably have the same problems as us, which means we will probably find it easier to connect with them and find common themes. This can help us get rid of the fear of participating in group conversations or the fear of talking in public in general. We can also gain insight into other people’s experiences with social anxiety.
  • Pharmacotherapy is always available as an option. There are several types of medications that can be effective in treating this disorder, such as anxiolytics, antidepressants, and beta blockers.


Cuncic, A. (2021, February 19). Understanding the causes of social anxiety disorder. Verywell Mind.

Higuera, V. (2018, September 3). Social anxiety disorder: Causes, symptoms & diagnosis. Healthline.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, June 19). Social anxiety disorder (social phobia). Mayo Clinic.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Social anxiety disorder: More than just shyness. National Institute of Mental Health.

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