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Social Anxiety


Also known as Social Phobia, a person who experiences this sort of anxiety has excessive worry about how they come across to others. Whilst all of us have varying degrees of social anxiety, from going for an interview to chatting in a group, the characteristics of social phobia are: 

  • Persistent fear of social or performance situations. Individual fears he/she will act in a way which will be humiliating or embarrassing. 
  • Exposure to above situations almost always provokes anxiety. 
  • Fear is recognised as excessive or unreasonable 
  • Feared situations are avoided or endured with intense distress 

Recognising Social Phobia 

Many people who have social phobia have thought of themselves as very shy or have been viewed by others as simply being shy. Most sufferers do not seek therapy and those who do may present with generalised anxiety, panic attacks or depression. Key characteristics associated with social phobia are avoidance and developing ways to feel psychologically safe, or safety behaviours. 

Overcoming Social Anxiety or Phobia

Try to build understanding of your anxiety. Keep a record of the thoughts going through your mind. Writing it down can help you identify patterns and also help put the thoughts into perspective. Think about what would you say to someone else if they brought this thought to you. 

When we feel socially anxious, we tend to have an increased self-focus and put a spotlight on ourselves.  

Try to move this spotlight by refocussing: 

  • On your surroundings- use your senses to focus in on your surroundings. Pay attention to what you can see, hear etc.  
  • Try to take the focus away from the physical sensations. People won’t notice them as much as you think and the less attention you give them the better they will be.  
  • Really listen to what the other person is saying rather than the thoughts going through your mind.  


Learning how to relax is important. You may find relaxation and breathing exercises helpful, or you may prefer activities such as meditation, Yoga or Pilates to help you unwind.    

Getting support: 

Wellbeing and Student Support are available for students at the University of Warwick: 

Samaritans:Tel 08457 909090 

Medical support and information can be obtained from GP practices or health centres. 

Self-help and further information: 

Self-help booklet on Shyness and Social anxiety self help programme 

Royal College of Psychiatry: 

The Depression Alliance: 

Coventry and Warwickshire NHS trust has a number of self-help apps available to download - Tips from Buzzfeed for coping in social situations