What is social anxiety disorder?

Social Anxiety Disorder, sometimes called Social Phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by unhelpful thinking about and having an intense fear of being in social events and situations.

Those who have this specific kind of anxiety shudder at the thought of social situations because they fear rejection, being judged, and getting themselves into embarrassing situations where they can get laughed at, pitied, or negatively evaluated.

What are the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder?

Because they fear rejection, being judged, and getting themselves into embarrassing situations, those with social anxiety disorder tend to exhibit the following signs, symptoms, and safety behaviors:

  • They worry about starting conversations and interacting with others in person or through the phone
  • They worry about meeting or interacting with strangers
  • They worry about going to school or work out of fear of interacting with others
  • They avoid social gatherings set up by family, friends, employers, or whatever institution they’re part of (e.g., talking in a work meeting for a presentation, speaking in public, drinking with friends)
  • They avoid and dislike group conversations because they feel anxious around people
  • They avoid eye contact
  • They are anxious about being criticized
  • They have low self-esteem

If they find themselves in these situations, they will likely start exhibiting physical symptoms and signs, including the following:

  • They might begin to sweat, sometimes excessively
  • They start trembling
  • They might begin to blush (if they feel embarrassed)
  • They might stutter when they speak
  • They might have difficulty speaking and lose their train of thought because they’re flustered
  • Their heartbeats might become rapid and start palpitating
  • They might become nauseated and vomit

If they get too overwhelmed by their anxious thoughts and fear, they might even have a panic attack and feel depressed afterward, which may cause disruptions in their daily life.

Those with severe cases of social anxiety disorder might end up isolating themselves as a way to prevent subjecting themselves to a social situation. They might also engage in negative self-talk, which may worsen the problem by leading to more negative thoughts and making them depressed.

Social Anxiety Coping Skills PDF Template

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Social Anxiety Coping Skills PDF Example

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What is the importance of having coping skills for managing social anxiety disorder?

Coping skills are essential to those who struggle with a social anxiety disorder because they help them overcome social anxiety, combat unhelpful thoughts, and practice safe behaviors (the healthy kinds).

You can even say that developing a set of coping skills and mechanisms is the first step that will help people reduce social anxiety. It doesn’t mean they will eliminate their fears, but they should help them challenge them and lessen the effects of their symptoms.

What are examples of coping skills for managing social anxiety?

Here are some examples of coping skills that one can practice to help them cope, build confidence, lessen their worrying, and keep on focusing on the important things they have to do each day:

Deep breathing exercises:

When a person with a social anxiety disorder is feeling anxious because they’ve just gone through a social interaction or because they’re about to take part in one, they can practice deep breathing exercises to whittle down the anxiety and gradually become more calm and relaxed. When they’re quiet, it’s easier to ignore their negative thoughts. They will also be more at ease (relatively) to take part in whatever social interaction they have to be part of.


Mindfulness is a widespread mental health practice these days, and it can benefit people with social anxiety disorder. What it does is anchor people to the present moment. Since they’re concerned about what others might think of them after a social interaction, which hasn’t happened yet, and are charged with guesses about how others would think, practicing mindfulness helps them focus on the now and think less about what future social interactions hold for them.

Visualizing successful social interactions:

One exercise they can practice is visualizing a successful, pleasant social interaction. They can ask themselves:

  • What feelings do I want to feel in this social interaction?
  • What can help me feel those feelings?
  • What can keep me from stopping this interaction just to get away from it?

These are just some questions they can ask themselves to imagine such a social interaction.

Engage in positive self-talk:

There are people with social anxiety disorder who are hard on themselves and often have an inner critic telling them they’re not enough or they’re not great at something. This adds to self-doubt and low self-esteem, contributing to thinking negatively about social interactions. They start thinking that others will judge them negatively once they’ve interacted with them, even if no evidence suggests people will think negatively about them.

Engaging in positive self-talk allows them to practice self-compassion and affirmation. It also allows them to reframe their negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones. This can lead to the development of healthy thought patterns about social interactions.

How does this Social Anxiety Coping Skills PDF work?

Now that you know the gist of social anxiety disorder and what coping skills can do for those who have it, we’d like to discuss our Social Anxiety Coping Skills PDF handout!

Any person, whether they’re a specialist who treats people with social anxiety disorders or a non-healthcare professional who just stumbled upon this guide, can use this and treat it as a self-help guide.

This handout contains all the coping strategies mentioned earlier. The handout divides these strategies into sections, each with its own set of descriptions and instructions. Whenever a person is feeling anxious or distressed because of social interactions, they can spend a few minutes doing one, some, or all of the coping strategies listed below:

  • The 4-7-8 Deep Breathing Method
  • Mindfulness
  • Visualizing a successful and pleasant social interaction
  • Practice self-affirmations and compassion
  • Reframe unhelpful thoughts about social interactions

What are the benefits of implementing coping skills?

It can increase the self-focus of those who have it.

Social anxiety disorder can disrupt a person’s daily life. Suppose they allow their social phobia to consume them. In that case, they will likely end up avoiding every situation that has even the slightest social interaction and prevent them from doing what they need to do, like activities of daily living, school work, company work, etc.

Having coping skills can help people with social anxiety to focus on what they have to do rather than their worries about social interactions.

It can help them overcome negative thinking and avoidance.

As mentioned earlier, a person avoiding social interaction is rooted in fear of what people think and being judged, even if nothing points out that others will surely think negatively about the person with social anxiety.

One way to combat negative thinking is to challenge these thoughts and ask oneself for evidence that supports their unhelpful thinking and fears. By learning how to challenge unhelpful thoughts, people can build critical thinking skills that can help them counter negative thoughts about social interactions, which can help them find the confidence to engage in such interactions.

The more they engage in social interaction, the less they will likely feel about avoiding them, and they will realize there’s nothing to fear (they should still be wary of strangers, though).

What are other ways of managing social anxiety?

Besides practicing coping skills and mechanisms, it will be helpful to take the following:

  • Attend social skills training to learn essential social skills such as starting conversations, maintaining conversations, listening actively and attentively, and maintaining eye contact through the guidance of an expert and a support group.
  • If a person has avoided social interactions for too long, building confidence is only enough if they have the social skills to maintain that confidence. This kind of training should teach them what they need.
  • Attend cognitive behavioral therapy sessions to learn the necessary skills and techniques like cognitive restructuring and de-catastrophization. CBT is known for being able to treat anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and more because it seeks to reframe unhelpful thoughts and reconfigure unhelpful and destructive behaviors.
  • Learning CBT techniques can help people with social anxiety to challenge their unhelpful thoughts about social interactions and replace them with positive ways of thinking.
  • They might even get to apply their learnings through social anxiety worksheets.
How common is social anxiety?
How common is social anxiety?

Commonly asked questions

How common is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is considered to be the third most common mental health condition. Approximately 10% of people all over the world have it.

Is being shy the same as having social anxiety?

No. Shyness is just temporary discomfort in social interactions. It’s not a disorder. Social anxiety is constant and persistent and, depending on the severity, can be disruptive.

In what ways can social anxiety be disruptive?

Children with social anxiety will have a hard time establishing relationships with other kids and might struggle with school because they don’t want to be there or around other kids. Adults might struggle with work communication and presentations, which can significantly affect their standing in the company and lead to being laid off if their performance keeps dropping.

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