Many clients are surprised to learn they have a diagnosis of social anxiety. In fact, according to the NIMH, an incredible 18% of the population suffers from anxiety. Of those, 63% aren’t receiving treatment, and 34% of those aren’t receiving adequate treatment. Some sufferers assume they might only be shy, introverted or quiet; others think they are awkward or lacking in social skills. Interestingly, women are 60% more likely to suffer from anxiety than men.
Here are 10 signs that what you’re dealing with might be social anxiety, and not simply shyness:
1. You skip events you are interested in, only because you think you will feel awkward.
Salsa dancing sounds cool. But you cringe thinking about how stupid you’ll look doing it, so you don’t go. Even if other people don’t know how to dance either, you assume they’ll look less silly than you. If an event involves any aspect of performing, you’re even more scared to go.
2. Similarly, you might decide you’re NOT really interested in events, because you think you’ll feel awkward.
This would be same as the person above, except you convince yourself salsa dancing is ridiculous in general. You know in your heart that you might find it fun, but you push that thought away and hide behind sarcasm or cynicism.
3. Whenever your appearance changes slightly, you’re terrified to go out and see people.
If you have a breakout or your haircut was shorter than expected, you automatically assume that people will mock you, even only in their heads.
4. You don’t expect anyone to be friends with you.
Entering any sort of new environment is scary. You think you’ll be the one person left standing on the side while everyone else groups together.
Sometimes you’re correct. You assume this is due to others thinking you seemed weird rather than recognizing that it might be because you don’t approach anyone.
5. You have a million excuses for why you don’t date.
Although you may want a long-term relationship — or even a short-term one — you have a list of reasons why dating isn’t the right choice for you at the moment. Maybe next month when your job isn’t so busy or next year when you’re done with grad school. You push down feelings of loneliness, thinking that this is what you ought to live with.
6. You think your coworkers or classmates secretly look down on you.
They all seem to get along with each other. When you walk in the room, however, you could swear that they roll their eyes or pity you. You end up avoiding common areas like break rooms or dorm lounges.
7. You edit your social media updates endlessly before you post them.
You’re extremely worried about what people may think about what you post. You don’t want to look stupid, uninformed or desperate. You spend time picking out the right emoji and still end up thinking your social media posts are pretty pathetic.
8. You act differently when you’re anonymous.
If you play any online games or are able to be anonymous in an online capacity, you experience a level of comfort unusual for you. You feel that your true self may be able to come out most easily with a cloak of anonymity. It’s only then you can relax and not feel people are judging you.
9. Growing up you thought constantly fearing others’ judgment was normal.
Social anxiety is heritable, and you can also learn it from others. If your parents also are socially anxious, it’s likely you grew up thinking that fearing social situations—or masking that fear with contempt for socializing—was normal and no cause for concern.
10. You sometimes wonder what your life would be like if you could be more confident.
But then you conclude it’s impossible for one reason or another. People with social anxiety often feel trapped in their lives. To them other people seem unimaginably carefree. This can lead to feelings of sadness, hopelessness and even depression.
What You Can Do About It
If any of these descriptors sound like you, I encourage you to seek treatment for social anxiety. Don’t allow your social anxiety to trap you in a life that isn’t the life you want, only because you feel you have no other options. Therapy can help you with anxiety and yield transformative results. Indeed, in a study from the 1990s, it was estimated that anxiety disorders cost $42.3 billion dollars annually–amounting to $1,542 per sufferer. Your mental health is worth the investment.