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Types of Social Anxiety People Experience

Many different experiences you may have never thought of can be categorized as types of social anxiety.

There are two main types of social anxiety and these can be subdivided into further categories.  Interactional and performance anxiety.

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Types of social anxiety : Interactional social  anxiety. 

Interactional social anxiety is anxiety about situations that may require you to talk, listen, and react. Interactional experiences are the most socially demanding.  For example, starting a conversation at a party is a form of interaction which can have anxiety associated with it.


·       Dating Anxiety

If you are single dating anxiety can be pretty impairing! Dating anxiety is fear and discomfort with possible romantic partners. What fuels most anxiety, this one being no exception, is avoidance. Unfortunately this creates a life of loneliness for people with dating anxiety. Some studies show that  the internet has provided some relief for these people. 

·       Fear of Interacting with People in Authority

This is a fear of interacting with bosses, supervisors, teachers, police officers etc. How would this affect your ability to respond when taking directions from your boss ? Often people with this form of anxiety will tell me their boss or supervisor has challenged their behavior as defiant or asked them about their demeanor when in fact they are just anxious. I have heard similar stories from children who have this experience with teachers.

·       Fear of Ordering Food

Yes, this is real! These people will often go to great lengths to avoid ordering food from restaurants or fast food places. Imagine if you were with a group of people and you went to lunch. How would you order, what would you do to avoid having to order? This can lead to isolation due to the avoidance of all of the possible social situations where food ordering would be necessary.

·       Fear of Asking Questions or Seeking Help

We are all familiar with the jokes about men who won’t ask for directions, but this can develop further into a real problem. If you are in the workplace and don’t understand your assignment or directions or something that was communicated, this fear can cause you to avoid seeking the information you need!  Coaching and exposure (dealing with the feared experience) are often the treatments of choice for these issues. 

types of social anxiety: performance anxiety.

Watch a brief video about this topic here

Performance anxiety can be about anything that requires you to perform something in front of others in a rehearsed way.  It may not even require a response from you at all. It is usually something learned or studied and then demonstrated. Interestingly, most people are more anxious about the second of the  types of social anxiety, performance anxiety.

Types of  Performance Anxiety

·       Public Speaking

Fear of Public speaking is actually ranked as  number one of the types of social anxiety! This fear can prevent people from successfully advancing in school and work.  Fear of public speaking is often a specific non generalized form of social anxiety disorder, meaning it does not necessarily co occur with other social phobias.

·       Paraurisis

This is a fear of not being able to urinate in public bathrooms or where others may hear you urinate. Although this may sound funny, it is not. People who have parauresis report they are often avoid drinking liquids, dating, social events, and sporting events, for fear that they will be trapped in a situation where they have to urinate in public. People with parauresis even report choosing a job based on this. For example, someone may choose a job closer to home so they can leave and go home to urinate. It is a very shameful and embarrassing condition. Research shows that most people suffering from this condition also have other anxieties and mental health conditions.

·       Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is a form of social anxiety that consists of anxious thoughts and feelings as well as physiological responses. Test anxiety can cause on to be unable to remember previously learned information and also can cause issues with comprehending what is being asked and formulating clear thoughts. Sometimes test anxiety can be treated without a therapist. The steps are outlined below.

1)    Become aware of the self talk statements you make ( the things you tell yourself)

2)    Focus on replacing those statements with more positive ones, self coach yourself

3)    Practice deep breathing and other body relaxation techniques throughout the time leading up to the test taking situation

·       Sports Performance Anxiety

Sports performance is an area that coaches and trainers often must have a lot of knowledge in.  Athletes may become anxious and overwhelmed and choke in a way that’s similar to what happens with a student who has test anxiety.

Trainers and coaches will use visualization, breathing and relaxation techniques, self talk  and psycho education to assist athletes who are experiencing this. There are also therapists who specialize in sports psychology who may assist in this area.

One recent study cited in psychology today actually demonstrated that in some cases of performance anxiety people who created the belief that their nervousness will improve their performance were able to decrease their anxiety and overcome the impact on their performance!

·       Writers Block and Stage Fright?

Both of these terms may refer to a form of social anxiety. Writers who have writers block frequently have an array of symptoms consistent with anxiety. Thoughts and fears that they cannot come up with something to write, a feeling of panic and dread, and the experience of being unable to write because of their symptoms of anxiety. Stage fright is a similar concept.

Further divisions of types of social anxiety

Types of social anxiety can also be divided into non generalized and generalized.

People with non generalized social anxiety  may have one or two situations where they are anxious such as in public speaking, or test anxiety.  These people may only experience anxiety in these situations and may be able to go about their daily responsibilities without much impairment.

People with generalized social anxiety however, are considered more severe. They may experience social anxiety in many situations in a way that consistently adversely affects their quality of life.

·       For information on social anxiety click the links below.

Click here for some anxiety disorder self help!

Counseling for Social Anxiety

Social anxiety disorder and teens

Depression and Social anxiety

Anger and social anxiety

Social Anxiety fact sheet

Natural Remedies for Social anxiety

Cause of social anxiety 

Hiebert, B. (2000). Self-Directed Treatment for Test Anxiety: Sometimes a Little Is Enough. Guidance & Counseling, 15(4), 2. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Madu, C. (2010, Jan/Feb). Tell yourself nervousness will improve your performance and it will. Psychology today , pp. 12-14.

Vythilingum, B., Stein, D., & Soifer, S. (2002). Is “shy bladder syndrome” a subtype of social anxiety disorder? A survey of people with paruresis. Depression & Anxiety (1091-4269), 16(2), 84-87. doi:10.1002/da.10061.


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