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Social anxiety involves consistent fear and discomfort in social situations, or situations where you have to perform in front of others (e.g. like eating in public). If you have social anxiety symptoms, you may frequently be worried or preoccupied about situations where you could be embarrassed, humiliated, or rejected. Not only is anxiety present in the actual situation, but there is typically a lot of anticipatory anxiety and dread leading up to the event. Sometimes, the anticipatory anxiety is so intense, you may completely avoid the situation, cancel your plans, or make an excuse to not have to participate. Avoidance is a very common coping strategy for those who experience social anxiety. It can be apparent like skipping class or calling in sick or it can be subtle like not making eye contact or only talking to the one person you know at the party. Either way, social anxiety symptoms typically have a big impact on the quality of your life and your relationships.

Common Social Anxiety Symptoms:
  • Worry excessively about embarrassing yourself in front of others
  • Avoid people, situations, or casual conversation because of anxiety
  • Prevent others from getting to know you because they might not like you
  • Worry that others will criticize you or reject you
  • Decline invitations because you will be too uncomfortable
  • Rarely start casual conversations
  • So nervous talking to others that your voices sounds odd or you can’t catch your breath
  • Dislike being the center of attention because you are uncomfortable and self-conscious
  • Avoid making eye contact, eating in public, coming in late to class, speaking up, or asking questions
  • Trouble stating your opinion, asking for something, or disagreeing because of what others might think of you

If you want more information about your symptoms, take this anonymous self-assessment. The Counseling Center offers a specialized treatment program, Tackling Society, specifically to address symptoms of social anxiety. The Communication Center at JMU (1st floor of the Student Success Center), provides support for developing and delivering presentations as well as overcoming public speaking anxiety.

What You Can Do If Think You Have Social Anxiety

There are several effective strategies available to reduce and manage social anxiety symptoms. 

Social anxiety results in a lot of thoughts, beliefs, and predictions. You need to understand how your mind creates thoughts that contributes to your cycle of social anxiety. Since your thoughts and beliefs impact your behavior, it’s a good idea to know how you react to negative emotions. Once you understand the interaction between your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, it is time to focus on the ways that you clearly or subtly engage in avoidance. Pay attention to times that you talk yourself out of doing something that needs done or would be good for you because of the predictions that your mind makes. Assess whether or not assertiveness is impacting your current relationships. 

Social Anxiety Resources

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