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Social anxiety: Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of social anxiety can be divided into 4 main categories:

Category 1: The effects on your feelings:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Panicky feelings
  • Apprehension
  • Embarrassment
  • Feeling of being watched
  • Frustration
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Low confidence
  • Feeling sad
  • Feeling low
  • Feeling depressed
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling self-conscious
  • Feeling of being judged

Category 2: The effects on your body:

  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Pounding heart
  • Palpitations
  • Trembling
  • Blushing
  • Aches and pains due to muscle tension
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling faint
  • Feeling sick
  • Loose bowels
  • Urinating frequently
  • Feeling out of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Cold clammy hands
  • Hot and cold flushes

Category 3: The effects on your behaviour:

  • Doing things to make sure you avoid attention
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Difficulty in talking
  • Getting words mixed up
  • Speaking quickly
  • Speaking quietly
  • Keeping to ‘safe ‘places
  • Talking to ‘safe’ people
  • Talking about ‘safe’ topics
  • Apologising excessively
Category 4: The effects on your thinking:
  • Worry about what other people think about you
  • Thinking what might go wrong
  • Dwelling on things you think you did wrong
  • Mind going blank
  • Thinking you look foolish
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Difficulty in remembering what people say

The signs of social anxiety

Technically speaking, in medicine, the signs of any condition are what you find on physical examination. In social anxiety, the signs will mainly be the result of your body’s physiological “fight or flight” response. These include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Increased breathing
  • Pupil dilation
  • Pale or flushed appearance
  • Shaking

The overall picture

In practice the symptoms blend and link with each other.

If you suffer with social anxiety, you will usually, but not always, have some of the symptoms from each category. Sometimes it can be difficult to recognise the symptoms in yourself. This is because it has gone on for so many years, it has become normal for you.

Knowing the definition of social anxiety and the above list of symptoms, is a good start in understanding social anxiety. However, it is not the complete picture. For more of an insight, see the thoughts of a socially anxious mind.

Take care,


Dr Paul Ogilvie
Dr Paul Ogilvie