Social anxiety

woman suffering from social anxiety covering her face

Social anxiety is the whole of feelings of apprehension, of inner tension, and of external discomfort, triggered by the gaze of others.

Many daily moments can trigger social anxiety: pass a test (oral exam, driving license, job interview…), be the focal point of the attention of others (arriving late to a course, making a niche in front of a terrace of coffee crowded…), sitting at the table next to a person who is not known and to whom we must make the conversation…, expressing his dissatisfaction (for example at the restaurant when the bottle of wine is corded, in the cinema when his neighbor makes too much noise…).

Poor assessment of social situations

Social anxiety is secondary to a problem of evaluating social situations, that is, for good or bad reasons, the subject has the impression:

  • that others scrutinize and judge him, no matter what he does,
  • that this judgement is severe and critical,
  • that it will cause something negative.

“Normal” social anxiety

Everyone, at some point in their lives, can feel social anxiety, feeling the discomfort of the eyes of others. Never feeling social anxiety is even abnormal!

It is therefore normal and present in almost everyone, of varying intensity from one individual to another. It usually takes the form of jitters or shyness. But it can be an embarrassment if it is too intense or chronic. When it has a strong impact on the daily life and the experience of the subject, we talk about social phobia.



There are probably hereditary factors in humans: social anxiety concordance rates are significantly higher in “real” twins (the same genetic inheritance) than in “false” twins.

Favorable terrain

It seems that there may be a ground that is early in favor of the development of social anxiety.

For example, some children present a hypersensitivity temperament to anything new or unknown from birth. This temperament is associated with excessive reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system (with among other things a higher heart rate).
Some studies have shown that these children tend to develop a social phobia symptomatology more frequently in adolescence or adulthood.

Factors acquired

Although hereditary factors exist, some environmental factors contribute to the development of the disorder:

  • some educations in which children are attracted too much attention to distrust of what is unknown or unfamiliar;
  • family lifestyles folded on themselves, the parents themselves inhibited or shy, the fact of being a single child or the elder seems to increase the risk slightly;
  • Educational, devaluating or critical education for children and their skills

Read also: social anxiety tips : Stop making this 8 mistakes