social anxiety

Social Anxiety Test:

How To Know If You Have Social Anxiety

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Curious to see where you lay on the social anxiety scale? This free social anxiety test, based on standard DSM-5 criteria for social anxiety disorder, may serve you as a valuable assessment.

Do you have anxiety related to or a fear of being exposed to certain social situations — in which you’re socially interacting or feel like you’re being observed or scrutinized?

This test is not a diagnostic tool, nor is it intended to replace a proper diagnosis. Use it only for informational purposes. Mental health conditions should only be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional or doctor. Regardless of your results from our assessment, you should speak to a doctor about your mental health.

Engaging in certain social situations can be challenging for anyone. It’s normal to feel a little anxiety when confronted with situations from time to time, but there’s a difference between having some nerves and experiencing an anxiety disorder.

It can be tough to know where that line is drawn, though. That makes it difficult to know whether you should seek help for what you’re experiencing or just carry on and wait for things to change.

We’re going to take an in-depth look at social anxiety disorder in this article, giving you some insight into whether or not you might have it. Hopefully, our comprehensive guide can give you a clear indication of how severe your symptoms are and whether you should seek treatment.

Let’s get started:

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder, often given the acronym “SAD,” is a condition that interferes with a person’s ability to engage with others in their life. It manifests in numerous ways, and it isn’t always obvious that a person is experiencing a social anxiety disorder.

For example, someone in your life who seems as confident as can be in social situations might be experiencing a terrible amount of anxiety each time they prepare to leave the house. They might also be feeling a number of symptoms as they talk to you, appearing to be as bubbly as ever.

Typically, the fear/anxiety a person experiences is in response to a situation that has a potential to be embarrassing or painful. Rejection, embarrassment, mockery, scrutinization, and failure come to mind often in people experiencing SAD.

Most people with this condition understand that their fears are unfounded. Sure, there is always a slight possibility that things can go terribly wrong in any situation for any person, but those situations are often once in a lifetime or absent from a person’s life.

Someone suffering from social anxiety might dread the thought of meeting up with their closest childhood friend, for example, knowing full-well that the person loves and accepts them as they are.

What about Shyness or Quietness?

While shyness and general “quietness” aren’t mutually exclusive from social anxiety disorder, one doesn’t always mean the other. Many people are what we would consider “shy” or “quiet,” and those normal traits can lead to some anxiety.

People who are shy might be asked to “speak up” or just “be themselves,” and this social feedback could make them think that something is wrong. It’s normal and natural to be introverted or shy, so long as you’re not shuttered by an underlying feeling of intense anxiety and fear around social situations.

Social anxiety disorder doesn’t have to do with your personality traits so much as your internal experience surrounding social interactions.

That intense anxiety will likely interrupt your ability to conduct life in the way you otherwise would. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms that social anxiety disorder produces that prevent one from living life freely.

Common Symptoms of SAD

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder might manifest in different degrees in different situations. Additionally, some people might only experience one or two of these symptoms.

Because social interaction is such an integral part of life and our feelings of self-worth, symptoms of the disorder come in most areas of our lives. Namely, physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, and behavioral symptoms exist at once or separately in different degrees.

Let’s take a look at each one of those categories:

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms of anxiety disorders tend to be the most prominent. The thoughts that go along with these feelings can be intense and difficult to reckon with.

On the surface, thoughts have something to do with the situation you’re facing or anticipation of some potential situation that could arise when things go wrong. These thoughts tend to be rapid and dominating.

When we peel back the surface of this kind of thinking, many people will find that there are a few principles that shine through. The thoughts that drive social anxiety disorder are inaccurate, exaggerated, and often harsh.

They’re composed of negative beliefs, gravitation toward negativity, and automatic thoughts that validate your negative feelings of yourself.

Let’s take a little time to unpack each of these three factors:

Negative beliefs that drive social anxiety disorder tend to affirm the idea of a person’s inadequacy. It’s not so much that you’re thinking negatively about yourself, it’s that you believe yourself to be incapable of functioning normally in social situations, regardless of reality.

Some common thoughts are “I am weird,” “I’m difficult to talk to,” “I’m too much,” “I can’t be normal.” The list could, and does go on for many people.

The key thing to recognize about these beliefs is that they are negative and definitive. They can usually be summed up in short, definitive phrases. For example, if someone asked you why you’re nervous to go to a party, you might say “I can’t have fun at parties.”

You might also say “because I’m bad at being social.” If we were to look at these things with an objective eye, we’d see that the statements we’re making can’t possibly be true. Negative beliefs succinctly put a stamp on issues and feelings that are far too complex to be summed up in that way.

There are surely times when you’ve had good conversations, enjoyed yourself in a group, and felt good about yourself afterward. The difficulty is that automatic negative beliefs are sticky and can eclipse those positive experiences, bringing you right back to feeling as though you’re inadequate.

Does this sound like something that you experience?

The next feature of the psychological aspect of SAD is a gravitation toward the negative points of interactions.

Simply put, this means that your mind pinpoints things that go wrong or could have gone better, and totally shuts out the positive points of interactions. This serves to reinforce the negative beliefs we already have about ourselves.

Let’s say that you went out to lunch with a group of friends. You spent the majority of the meal talking and enjoying yourself. You made plans with one of your friends to go out again next week, and you shared a few laughs about old memories.

When the meal arrived, though, you spilled a little bit of it on your pants on your first bite. You were a little thrown off by that, and the next ten minutes were a little uncomfortable as you adjusted to get past that burst of anxiety.

The entire meal lasted three hours, but the only thing you remember was how embarrassing it was that you spilled food on yourself.

Try going back through your last interaction with a friend or acquaintance. What do you remember first? If the first thought you have is something that produces anxiety, see if there are other points of the interaction that you’re forgetting about.

See if there are some good things that came from that interaction, and whether or not you might be experiencing a negative bias.

Negative thoughts are distinct from beliefs and biases in that they are in the moment. Beliefs and biases sit a little deeper, whereas thoughts emerge out at the surface.

Automatic negative thoughts come in direct response to things that happen in social situations and linger on afterward. For example, you might be talking with someone and immediately think that you’ve said something weird or wrong.

These thoughts give you immediate negative feedback that dictates how you feel about the situation later. As you’re laying in bed, you might experience a negative thought and use some of your biased memories to validate the thoughts, adding more fuel to the fire of those negative beliefs.

As you can see, these symptoms of SAD work in a cyclical fashion and fuel each other. One hand feeds the other, and the network of anxious thoughts stays intact.

Figuring out if you’re having these symptoms can be difficult because these thoughts are ingrained in the way that many of us think. It might not seem unusual for you to think this way, so you might not notice these thoughts as negative.

Try doing some journaling about situations you have throughout the day, give the entry some time to sit, and revisit it. Does it look like your entry displays any of the psychological symptoms above?

These factors work in tandem with our next section of symptoms; physical symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

The physical symptoms of SAD are a little more straightforward than the psychological ones. There are a lot of different physical symptoms that a person can experience, though, so there’s a lot of potential for these things to get in the way of your life.

Many of the symptoms are ones that you could experience if you were having a panic attack. Some include general muscle tension, headaches, a tightness in your chest, dry mouth, increased heart rate, ear-ringing, difficult breathing, and more.

These can lead to difficulty performing in social situations. Your body’s intensification might also lead your mind to depersonalize, leaving you in a state that feels detached from reality.

Other symptoms like blushing, sweating, flushed face, and a trembling voice are all symptoms that manifest visibly and can make the other symptoms increase. At times, these can all lead a person to experience an actual panic attack.

All of these symptoms can be experienced in different degrees, and one or more of them can be enough to keep you from stressful situations. That leads us to our next set of symptoms, behavioral symptoms.

Behavioral Symptoms

The behavioral symptoms of social anxiety aren’t necessarily the ones that those having the anxiety would fear. Instead, the behavioral factors of social anxiety have to do with how the person organizes their life and behaves in response to their anxiety.

For example, avoidance of certain social situations is a huge indicator of SAD. You might choose not to go to a job interview out of fear that you’ll embarrass yourself. You might choose not to go with a certain class or college degree that you otherwise would because there’s too much public speaking involved.

Similarly, you might not spend time with friends or go on dates because of the fear and anxiety that go along with them. All of these things prove to be significant obstacles that can be damaging to a person’s life.

It’s tough to move forward or have the things in life that you want if your social anxiety disorder is convincing you not to do the things that you’d otherwise want to.

So, it isn’t so much that a person with social anxiety disorder talks to others in a certain way or acts differently while in public, it’s more that they behave in ways that protect them from the realization of their fears.

Distinguishing Social Anxiety from Other Disorders

Anxiety disorders can be difficult to diagnose or identify properly because many of them have overlapping symptoms. Additionally, most anxiety disorders have something to do with the fear of rejection or becoming an outcast.

It’s also difficult to isolate some disorders from one another because there are situations where one anxiety disorder can lead to another. For example, someone with social anxiety disorder might isolate themselves more and more, starting to exhibit symptoms of depression.

Depression might become the dominant disorder and prove difficult to separate from anxiety. Furthermore, not all anxiety disorders are sourced from singular irregularities in the brain.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, for example, mostly stems from an irregularity in the amygdala, which processes part of the brain’s anxiety and emotional responses. This fact makes it a little easier to offer treatment because there is a specific piece of the brain that’s contributing to the disorder.

That isn’t to say that OCD is easy to treat, but many anxiety disorders are sourced in a person’s thoughts and feelings, not a mechanical function of the brain.

So, when it comes to identifying an anxiety disorder, it’s incredibly difficult to do it yourself. It’s important to use a test, speak with a professional, and have discussions about the different things that you’re experiencing.

Mental difficulties are far more complicated than issues like treating a cold. If you do think that you’re experiencing some of the signs of an anxiety disorder, take a look at our next section: options for treatment.

Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder

The first step in treatment is coming to the conclusion that you could benefit from a little help. Interestingly, this is a lot easier said than done.

When you have a broken ankle, the obvious thing to do is to go and see a doctor for treatment. When your thoughts and feelings are preventing you from engaging with other people, though, it’s pretty easy to make the decision not to get any help.

A lot of the time, negative thoughts and biases convince us that the problems we’re having are our fault, that no one could help, and that it’s just something we’ll have to figure out on our own.

If you’re thinking about whether you could use help, though, that’s a sign that you might benefit from at least speaking with someone. There’s no shame in seeking help, and there are a lot of individuals who talk with counselors and doctors about their mental health without even having a disorder.

Who to Talk to First

There are a couple of options for you to take. Many people might go see their general practitioner and discuss treatment options. This is definitely one way to go, although this individual might not be specialized in mental health disorders.

General practitioners are often able to prescribe mental health medication without the individual seeing a psychiatrist or counselor first. This works for some, but it’s usually best to see someone who is specialized in mental health disorders before you start thinking about treatment.

At the very least, ask your general practitioner to refer you to a counselor in your area. It’s also possible to schedule an appointment with a counselor directly and just cut out the middle man.

Sitting down with someone will give you the opportunity to talk for an hour or so about what you’re experiencing. Keep in mind that this person is trained to listen and understand the mental difficulties that others are having, so what you’re saying probably fits closely with things they’ve heard before.

That means you can feel free to describe what’s actually going on in your head without judgment. In fact, the more honest you are, the better your odds of getting an accurate diagnosisand better therapy as a result.

The first and most crucial step, though, is making the phone call to set up the appointment. If you’re like most of us, your brain will find many ways to put off making the call. Remember that it takes about five minutes to call, and that step could benefit your life immeasurably.

Likely Treatment Options

Depending on the nature of your social anxiety disorder and personal preferences, you’ll likely be faced with a couple of treatment options. Counseling is the most common option, and it seems to be the most effective at treating anxiety disorders.

Remember that this is where you’ll start to unpack the underlying reasons for the disorder and get mental tools to overcome it. For example, you might discuss some of your automatic negative thoughts and get a few ideas on how to address those thoughts when they arise.

Over time, you and a counselor might chip away at a lot of things that you hadn’t thought of before. These sessions will work to ease your social anxiety disorder and bring you to a place where you’re more confident than you might have been before you started experiencing symptoms.

If you’re comfortable with it, you might also have the option to receive medication for your anxiety. There are a lot of different options that have worked for others in the past.

Prescription medications can serve as a way to reduce anxiety while you’re working with a counselor to chip at the underlying reasons for the disorder. In some situations, a person might find that the medication is crucial and keep taking it as they carry on with their lives.

What to Do If You're Not Sure You Have SAD

Coming to terms with the fact that you have a “disorder” of any kind can be difficult, especially if your disorder produces fear at the thought of being different or less than enough.

It’s important to remember that over one-fourth of adult Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. Further, a mental disorder isn’t something that a person needs to be ashamed of in the 21st century.

It was never something that a person should have felt shame about, but the stigma has lifted significantly in recent years, and more people are waking up to the fact that mental health is complex. Difficulties are more appreciated, and there’s a growing awareness of the incredible strength of those who struggle with mental illness.

Whether or not you find that you have a social anxiety disorder, you’re going to feel the same as you do currently. If you find that you do have one, a diagnosis will be the first step to getting treatment and feeling better.

If you don’t have SAD, speaking with a counselor might help you work through the difficulties that you’re having and come to a better place as well. In either case, it’s important to know that it’s possible for things to get better.

Your mental health is complex, and there are a million ways for you to address the trouble you’re having and come out stronger on the other end. So, if you’ve made it to the end of this article and still wonder if you should seek help, know that there’s no harm in starting the conversation with a professional.

Want to Learn More about Mental Health?

Mental health issues, whether they have to do with social anxiety or something else, are important to understand. It’s crucial to have resources for yourself and those around you who might need your advice.

We’re here to help. Contact us for resources, information, and more discussion about mental health and various ways to improve it.

Sources:

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  3. Markway, B., Ph.D. (2011, September 13). Why Is Self-Acceptance So Hard? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shyness-is-nice/201109/why-is-self-acceptance-so-hard
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