What does social anxiety disorder feel like? Essentially, it’s a fear of being judged, criticized, or rejected by others and the extreme desire to avoid disappointing others and escape the possibility of being judged if they do things “right”. You may be hypersensitive to perceived social interactions and may have low self-esteem, poor social skills, and trouble being assertive.1 For example, after making a mild mistake, such as standing within the appropriately socially distanced space of another and being asked to move away, may result in feelings of embarrassment that are distorted or out of proportion with the actual situation.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, defines social anxiety disorder as having a marked, or intense, fear or anxiety of social situations in which the individual may be scrutinized by others.2 This can include fears of being negatively evaluated, like being judged as anxious, weak, crazy, stupid, boring, intimidating, dirty, or unlikeable. Social anxiety disorder is linked to significant distress and impairment in education, employment, financial independence, and the development of professional, peer and intimate relationships.3
Social anxiety is challenging, especially when people around you cannot understand it. Social anxiety is not merely shyness or introversion; rather, it is associated with disability and interference with most areas of life. Studies have shown that the onset of anxiety disorders often happens before a substance use disorder (thus becoming “comorbidities”) .4 It is believed that some people turn to alcohol, which reduces inhibition, to self-medicate feelings of loneliness and sadness related to a lack of social relationships associated with social anxiety. Drinking regularly for the anxiety-relieving effects of alcohol can lead to excessive drinking.
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