Almost everyone has felt nervous before a presentation, or uncomfortable in a new social setting,
which illustrates that everyone has some degree of social anxiety. It makes the most sense seeing
people on a continuum.
According to a Student Life Survey (2001) done on the University of Alberta campus, 45% of the
students reported that shyness has been a problem and about 50% of the students reported that they
had problems with public speaking. Most people feel shy because they worry about other’s
perceptions of them. However, if this worry becomes persistent and disrupts daily life, leading to
the use of drugs or alcohol to facilitate their social skills, or turning down opportunities that require
public speaking, they are exhibiting signs of social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety is described as
a pervasive fear of social situations in which an individual might be subjected to humiliation or
scrutiny. About 20% of the general population has diagnosable social anxiety.
People with social anxiety display a number of other common characteristics including:
· being overly self conscious
· trouble making friends or maintaining a relationship
· feeling anxious during social situations/interactions
· excessive worry about how others will evaluate you
· constant need for reassurance
· fear that others will disagree with you
· fear that your own words might be offensive
· not feeling in control of your body
· fears that fit into one or both of the following categories:

  1. PERFORMANCE: · being in public areas (washrooms, buses, malls)
    · eating, drinking or writing in front of others
    · participating in sports or working out with other people
    · participating in classes or meetings
    · public speaking
  2. INTERACTION: · initiating or maintaining a conversation
    · talking on the phone
    · talking to someone in authority (doctor, professor, boss)
    · expressing personal opinions
    · working in a group
    · being in intimate situations (i.e. dating)
    · going to parties or other social events
    Social Comfort Social Anxiety Social Phobia
    Page 2
    Social anxiety can also be understood in terms of a number of common signs, which fit into three
    main categories:
  3. PHYSICAL: · blushing
    · sweating
    ·rapid breathing
    increased heart rate
    · shaking
    ·clammy hands
    · upset stomach
    · dry mouth
    · lightheadedness
  4. COGNITIVE: · false belief that you will be judged negatively
    · false belief that others will not approve of you
    · fear of embarrassment in front of others
    · wanting to make a good impression, but doubting your ability
    to do so
    · worrying about events ahead of time
  5. BEHAVIOURAL: · avoidance of uncomfortable situations (performance or
    interaction with others)
    · passive, withdrawn
    · use of alcohol or substances to manage situations
    · asking for reassurance
    · apologizing excessively
    · avoiding eye contact
    · wearing makeup to cover blushing
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