Social anxiety symptoms can create problems in situations that many of us take for granted, like being at the till in a supermarket or even socialising with a group of friends. Those who experience social anxiety can end up isolating themselves from friends and family. And that can lead to problems both at home and work as well as in social situations. But take heart, it can be beaten.

When is social anxiety a problem?

The answer to this will vary from one person to another as social anxiety can show itself in many different situations including:

  • reading aloud or writing, especially whilst being watched,
  • queuing, such as lining up in banks or supermarkets,
  • any occasion where you feel you might become the centre of attention,
  • meeting strangers,
  • talking in groups or starting conversations,
  • talking to authority figures,
  • speaking on the telephone,
  • eating or drinking in company,
  • shopping.

Symptoms of social anxiety

Social anxiety, also sometimes referred to as social phobia, is more than just shyness, or being ‘the quiet one’. It can be completely overwhelming. Symptoms might include:

  • negative thinking, such as ‘I’ll feel silly’ or ‘other people will think I’m silly’,
  • blushing and feeling self-conscious,
  • feeling shaky, dizzy or disoriented,
  • upset tummy or ‘butterflies’,
  • heart racing or thumping, fast breathing,
  • worrying excessively about being criticised,
  • find yourself avoiding contact with people,
  • having low self-worth and feeling insecure, which might create problems with intimate relationships,
  • experiencing feelings of loneliness or depression,
  • struggling to relax,
  • depending more on alcohol and drugs to get through social situations.

Having said that, social anxiety can occur on a spectrum which means people experience it at different levels. You might have just a couple of these symptoms or many of them.

Reducing social anxiety

  • Reduce your worrying by applying logical thinking, for example, ask yourself how realistic your fears are.
  • Even if there is a chance of your fears coming true, will people really judge you as harshly as you think? How would you feel if the roles were reversed?
  • Learn breathing exercises or other ways to relax, so you can feel calm and in control when under stress. You could always download the free relaxation audio from this site – arrive five minutes before your presentation or interview and find a quiet, private spot to use it.
  • Challenge your fears – avoiding them will only make things worse. This doesn’t mean charging right in there and giving a presentation to 1000 people, try making a list of the situations that worry you, start with the easiest and work up.
  • Reducing your overall stress levels will help reduce anxiety too.
  • Avoid or reduce artificial aids like caffeine, alcohol or tobacco.
  • Improve your ability to communicate by learning assertiveness and similar skills.
  • Choose to socialise in places where you have something specific to do or talk about with the people there – it’s much easier than polite chit-chat. Joining clubs or volunteering are great ways to do this.

Hypnotherapy for social phobias

Social anxiety can be a devastating problem if it’s not addressed; if you struggle with these self-help ideas, the good thing is that hypnotherapy can be very effective at relieving social anxiety at all stages of its development.

You might also begin to see significant changes in other areas of your life; for example, by interacting with others more easily and regaining control of your feelings you can enjoy a relaxing night out, reconnect with friends or colleagues, or maybe even ask for raise!

Please contact me if you need help in this area.

Author: Debbie Waller is a professional therapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues, including gut-directed hypnotherapy to help with the symptoms of IBS. She also offers EMDR/Blast which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD. For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593. 

Researcher: Rae Waller is an experienced researcher and writer with a special interest in mental health issues. Rae offers drafting, fact-checking, proofreading, and editing for anything from a leaflet to a website, a blog or a book, and can also provide diversity reading, especially for LGBTQ+ and autism-related issues. Please contact for further information.