Anyone who has ever stood in front of an audience – on stage, in class, or on the sports field – knows the feeling of having butterflies in one's stomach. It's normal to feel nervous when you're in the spotlight. In most cases, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
For some people, however, the experience becomes progressively more difficult, due to an extreme fear of being judged or embarrassed. They may blush, get sweaty palms, shake, experience heart pounding, have difficulty breathing, and, in severe cases, experience a panic attack. As a result, they avoid or withdraw from any type of social encounter.
This condition, called social anxiety, is a commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder among teens and adults, and it affects more than 10 million Americans. People with social anxiety are at a higher risk for depression, alcoholism, and even thoughts of suicide.
Fortunately, there are very effective ways to treat social anxiety through a combination of various therapies, medications and support groups.
If you or someone you know has experienced the signs or symptoms of social anxiety listed below, it is very important to get help. Talk to someone who cares – your parents, school counselor, psychologist, or family physician.
Signs & Symptoms of Social Anxiety
- Excessive fear of public speaking
- Avoidance of social situations
- Extreme fear of being judged or embarrassed
- Blushing, sweating, shaking, pounding heart
- Extreme discomfort with dating
- Panic attack
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling disoriented
- Feeling loss of control
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Compulsion to escape
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