Most of us, to some degree, feel anxious or shy in certain social situations, but social anxiety goes beyond that. Social anxiety is an excessive, often unrealistic fear of social interaction.
Generally people with this type of anxiety have an inner voice that is constantly watching what they say, straining every nerve to detect how people react to them. They fear being judged by others, and doing things that will embarrass them. This fear can be so intense that it interferes with their lives, with work, with making friends, etc. They may avoid anything that triggers this fear. Even though they may realize the fear is irrational, they are unable to overcome it. The fear may center on one type of event or be so large that the person only feels safe when alone.
Physical symptoms are common such as dizziness, trembling, nausea, inability to speak clearly, and a fear of losing control. Underlying this anxiety is often a fear of being seen as inadequate. They often have false expectations of whom they should be. People with social anxiety often expect others to react in a harsh, critical, judgmental manner.
In counseling, the goal is to work on improving self confidence, creating realistic expectations and better communication skills to help overcome the anxiety.