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Living with social anxiety: Tips and advice

Posted on: March 20, 2024

In a world that increasingly values connectivity, living with social anxiety can feel like navigating a minefield. It’s not just about being shy or introverted; it’s about facing a crippling fear that can significantly impact a person’s daily life. However, with the right understanding and the right tools, people living with social anxiety can find their way to a more comfortable and fulfilling life.

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety, known medically as social anxiety disorder or social phobia, is a mental health condition marked by an overwhelming fear of social situations. This disorder goes beyond typical shyness – it’s a persistent fear that affects a person’s ability to interact, perform, and thrive in social settings, including at school or at work.

“It’s a common problem that usually starts during the teenage years,” explains the NHS. “It can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life. For some people it gets better as they get older. But for many people it does not go away on its own without treatment.”

Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder

People with social anxiety might experience a range of feelings or symptoms, including:

  • excessive fear of being judged or scrutinised in social situations
  • avoidance of social gatherings or speaking in public
  • physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, or a racing heart
  • difficulty making eye contact or engaging in conversations
  • feeling perpetually self-conscious or even intense fear during social situations or interacting in front of others
  • experiencing panic attacks during social events.

“These symptoms can be quite alarming and make your anxiety worse. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” adds the Royal College of Psychiatrists. “You worry so much about looking worried that you actually do look worried. Your worry is your worst enemy.”

Causes of social anxiety

The roots of social anxiety can be complex, stemming from a mix of genetic factors, environmental influences, and personal experiences. For example, a history of bullying, family conflicts, and other traumatic events can contribute to its development.

The NHS Inform website explains that the causes of social anxiety can be rooted in one of three areas:

  1. Social reasons. When bullying or social embarrassment occurs, it can create a deep-seated fear of other people or social situations.
  2. Psychological reasons. There are certain thought-patterns associated with social anxiety. For instance, someone with social anxiety may believe that everyone dislikes them, which perpetuates the feelings of anxiety.
  3. Biological reasons. Some people are genetically predisposed to social anxiety, and may be wired to feel the need for people’s approval – or a fear of rejection – more keenly.

Treatments for social anxiety

There are several effective medical treatment options for social anxiety.


  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is a popular treatment that involves identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviours.
  • Exposure therapy. Another effective area of behavioural therapy is exposure therapy, in which patients gradually and systematically face their fears of social situations and interactions in a controlled environment.
  • Group therapy. Engaging in group therapy led by mental health professionals can provide support from peers, reduce feelings of isolation, and offer a space to practice social skills in a safe setting.


  • Antidepressants. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and other antidepressants can help regulate mood and reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Beta-blockers. In some scenarios, beta-blockers are used to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and trembling.
  • Other medications. Depending on individual cases, doctors might prescribe other types of medication – like benzodiazepines or diazepams – although these are generally used for short-term relief due to their side effects and addiction potential.

What happens if social anxiety is left untreated?

If left untreated, social anxiety can lead to longer-term consequences, such as the development of other mental disorders such as depression or panic disorder. 

It can also create long-term feelings of low self-esteem, impair social skills, and limit people’s ability to build personal relationships or achieve career success.

Ways to manage society anxiety

While living with social anxiety can feel challenging, there are a number of helpful techniques and strategies for tackling it above and beyond medical treatment, and these often work best in combination with one another – a tailored mix of treatments and self-help strategies. Remember that every person’s pursuit to overcome social anxiety is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. It’s about finding the right balance and set of tools that work for each individual person.

Build social skills

  • Practice different scenarios. Role-playing common social situations with trusted friends or family members can help build the confidence to comfortably engage with new people.
  • Join clubs or groups. Engaging in hobbies or interests with like-minded people can provide low-pressure social interactions.

Make lifestyle adjustments

  • Focus on healthy eating habits and regular exercise. A balanced diet and regular physical activity can significantly improve overall mental health.
  • Don’t forget about sleep hygiene. Ensuring adequate and quality sleep is vital for emotional and mental wellbeing.

Create support systems

  • Lean on family and friends. Openly communicating about social anxiety with loved ones can help build much-needed support and understanding.
  • Join support groups. Joining support groups where other people share similar experiences can be comforting – and informative.

Develop coping strategies

  • Practice mindfulness and other relaxation techniques. Practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can help calm the mind and body before, during, and after stressful social situations.
  • Access self-help books and similar resources. Many books and online resources offer practical advice and strategies. This can be helpful because every person manages their social anxiety in slightly different ways, so having a clear understanding of different techniques and methods can help build up a valuable arsenal of coping tactics. 

Embrace technology

  • Use helpful apps and social media. There is an ever-increasing number of apps designed and developed to help manage anxiety through exercises, mood tracking, and sharing relaxation tips techniques. And don’t forget about social media communities that often offer online sanctuaries for people similarly struggling with social anxiety.
  • Try teletherapy. Online therapy can be a convenient option for people who find it difficult to attend in-person sessions to tackle mental illness.

Help treat people living with social anxiety

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You will gain the specialist knowledge and professional skills of mental health practitioners while exploring modules in areas such as mental health online, the psychology of social interaction, and the psychology underpinning personality, ability, and individual differences.

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