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Does Social Anxiety Hold You Back?

In the "Anxiety Disorders" section of the manual entitled "Diagnostic Criteria from DSM IV," which is used for the diagnosis of mental health conditions, there are 12 anxiety diagnoses covered.

The fifth, and what may appear to be a soft diagnosis, is Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder). In contrast to "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder," "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder" and "Panic Disorder" this diagnosis may seem to be lighter than the rest. 

Please don't be fooled by names or the sound of names or even the fact that many of the others have achieved more press time. Social phobia is a very real threat to the quality of life for many individuals.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?  Glad you asked.  Following is a list of life areas impacted by social anxiety --

  1. Meeting new people
  2. Answering the door
  3. Interacting with merchant clerks at banks, grocery stores etc.
  4. Setting appointments with doctor’s offices etc.
  5. Attending church
  6. Buying or returning items at retail outlets
  7. Sick days where your anxiety has made you sick
  8. Driving (fear other drivers looking at you or thinking about you)
  9. Paying at the gas station
  10. Eating in front of other people
  11. Signing your name in front of others
  12. Attending or hosting social events
  13. Dating
  14. Talking in a small or large group
  15. Expressing your opinion
  16. Performance situations, such as playing on an athletic team, singing in a choir etc.
  17. May or may not have panic attacks
  18. Fear of what others are thinking of you
  19. Fear of being embarrassed or humiliated


Next is a general physical symptom list of the physical signs of social anxiety --

  1. Blushing
  2. Sweating
  3. Dizziness
  4. Heart palpitations
  5. Muscle tension
  6. Dry mouth
  7. Shaking
  8. Nausea
  9. Diarrhea
  10. Headache

These are a few of the symptoms of social anxiety as experienced in life areas and physically. Many folks have social anxiety but do not realize that this is what they struggle with. Oftentimes thinking about or engaging in any of the activities listed above will induce anxiety.

The real danger with this disorder is that it can
subtly grow into a monster. Left unattended, social anxiety can reshape the life that you should be living into one that is centered around avoidance of anxiety. Some of you are aware that you have anxiety and fight with it constantly. Many others are not aware of anxiety as the culprit, even though it's impacting all these life areas. That's powerful!

Ongoing social anxiety can result in developing a pattern of avoidance, whereby you begin putting off many of life's activities. Too often, you have only the best of excuses, but if you suffer from social anxiety, it's really anxiety driving your life's bus.

There are many keys in the overcoming of anxiety. At the top is bolstering your self-confidence. Ironically enough, the more withdrawn you become while feeing anxious and avoiding activities, the stronger the social anxiety becomes.


  1. Participate in activities which increase esteem and a sense of personal safety
  2. Establish an area of expertise or mastery and allowing those abilities to be present in anxiety situations
  3. Learn relaxation strategies that become serenity-hygiene habits
  4. Challenge irrational thought patterns that support the anxiety
  5. Keep an anxiety scale journal to chart goals and progress
  6. Seek a caring individual to hold you accountable to your goals
  7. Know that peace and anxiety cannot exist at the same time. Any ritual which brings peace into your life is a great tool to use to eliminate anxiety.
  8. Practice knowing that you are loved and have a right to live a joy-filled life!

This is your life! If you find yourself angry over being anxious, that's GOOD -- but only if you direct your anger at anxiety and allow it to become an energizer in your efforts to reclaim your life.


May joy be yours!

Dave Turo-Shields (email)
Veteran Psychotherapist, Trainer & Life Coach

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A Bushel Barrel of Tools

This week Rose opens fire on depression and  shares many wonderful tools from her own recovery from depression.  You'll definitely learn from her wisdom.

Please do visit the blog.  Enjoy the heartfelt stories and while you're at it send the blog your piece of inspiration.  Let's build some hope.

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Great Quotes

"The misfortunes hardest to bear are these which never came."

 ~ James Russell Lowell


Ask Dave!


Hello there,

Ever since I broke up with my girlfriend (3 year relationship) and left University I feel empty and sad.  I've thought about all kinds of deep and dark things. Living back at home again is weird too, I feel like an intruder.  I really don't feel safe anymore.

Is there anything I can do to beat this monster in my head ? I've never felt anything like this before.

Many thanks,



Hi Paul,

I get a sense that your life has been on "pause" since your breakup.  Ever try to keep a VCR on pause too long?  Mine shuts off.  I think we humans cannot stay on pause too long without shutting off.

My best advice in this situation is to leave the "spectator" role and join the game of life once again.

It doesn't sound as though you were made to be a spectator.  It doesn't "feel safe" to put it in your own words.

Here's a powerful beginning question to ask yourself -- 

"If I were living life precisely the way I would like to, what exactly would it look like?"

Make sure your vision involves areas within your influence.

Once you get a good feeling for the specifics... how it feels, how it looks, how it smells etc., ask yourself a second question such as, "What resources do I need in my life to be where I want to be?"

List each resource out separately, followed by the steps you would need to follow in order that you could achieve each resource.

For example, let's say that you see yourself writing software for a life insurance company.  You decide the resource you need is a college degree.  The steps might include a look at local colleges, part-time or full-time programs, on campus or commuter options and, eventually, to pick and begin at least one class.

I believe it may have been Einstein who said, "Nothing happens until something moves."

Wishing you the energy to break-free from inertia and propel yourself back into your life.

Dave Turo-Shields 


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