Social anxiety (also called social phobia) is an on-going fear about social situations.
It is one of the most common forms of anxiety that people experience.
Lots of people worry about public speaking, going to a party on their own or talking to an important person, however they are still able to manage this without too much trouble. For some people this experience is much more intense and overwhelming.
When people have social anxiety they can experience high levels of anxiety over what are normal day-to-day activities such as going to the shops or taking a telephone call. It is often accompanied by thoughts about how they might humiliate themselves or negative views as to how other people see them.
• dreading everyday activities
• feeling insecure in relationships
• physical symptoms – shaking, blushing, feeling dizzy or rapid breathing
• negative thoughts as to what other people think about you
• negative thoughts as to how you are in social situations
• misusing drugs or alcohol to manage situations better
• avoiding eye contact or avoiding conversation with people
Sometimes the physical symptoms can get so bad that people experience a panic attack (see panic section).
Often the end result of social anxiety is that people avoid social situations and become lonely and isolated, as it disrupts normal life, interfering with social relationships and quality of life, and impairing performance at work or school.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Steps to Wellbeing Service provides evidence based treatment that can help you to overcome your social anxiety and improve your quality of life.
If you are feeling very distressed, despairing or suicidal and need immediate help please contact your GP and request an emergency appointment, contact the Samaritans on 116 123, or go to your nearest Accident and Emergency Department.
If your GP surgery is not open, you can contact the NHS Out of Hours Medical Service on 111. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. You should use the NHS 111 service if you urgently need medical help or advice but it's not a life-threatening situation. If you feel at harm to yourself or from other – go straight to your nearest Accident and Emergency.
If you are concerned that someone else is very distressed and might be considering suicide please encourage them to contact their GP and make an emergency appointment. Alternatively you might wish to encourage them to speak to the Samaritans on 116 123.
If you are concerned that someone is about to act on thoughts of hurting themselves you might wish help them attend the nearest Accident and Emergency Department. Alternatively, you may choose to contact the Police on 999.
Similarly, if you become concerned that someone is at risk of hurting somebody else
If you feel you need to talk to someone in confidence, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on:
Tel: 116 123
(TEXT MESSAGE ONLY number available on 07725 909090)
There are also local Samaritans branches across Hampshire and Dorset.