The Social Situation
The range of social situations that are experienced as anxiety provoking for individuals with social anxiety vary significantly. They may be limited and restricted to discrete, clearly defined social situations e.g., eating in public, public speaking, expressing an opinion to a group, or diffuse, involving almost all social situations.
Another distinction often observed is that some individuals with social anxiety particularly fear unstructured interpersonal situations like going to a party and engaging in ‘small talk’ while others fear structured performance type situations making a toast or writing in front of others.
Individuals with social anxiety tend to either avoid or endure with severe anxiety or distress these much-feared situations. Because the anxiety is so intense and distressing, it’s much easier just to stay away from social situations and avoid other people altogether. Individuals can isolate themselves to such an extent that they give up work and remain at home.
In some circumstances their social contact can narrow down to their immediate family or in extreme circumstances to no one at all. This then can lead to feelings of sadness and even depression. Others can turn to alcohol in an attempt to ease their social discomfort and this can lead to serious problems with alcohol misuse and dependency.
Unfortunately, the avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress experienced in social situations interferes greatly with the individual’s normal routine at work, in school, during social activities, and/or in relationships.
Most individuals with social anxiety have jobs that are well beneath their capabilities and capacities because of their social concerns: the nightmare of job interviews, the agony of working in a job where there is a lot of public contact or the dread of being promoted to a position of authority over other or that involves team meetings or formal presentations.
It is important to note that individuals who suffer from social anxiety do recognize that their fear is unreasonable and/or excessive, but try as they do they cannot simply stop themselves having these irrational or excessive concerns. Finally, without proper treatment social anxiety tends to develop into a longstanding and unremitting condition.