Social Anxiety Disorder

In this post, I’ll share some examples of social anxiety experiences that you might relate to, so you know you’re not alone in it. Around 15.5% of Canadians have social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, yet it might not be talked about due to the very nature of social anxiety—fear of being judged.

This is a judgment-free zone, and I try to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues whenever I get the chance.

I use humour throughout this post because these are all things I can personally relate to, and I like to have a sense of humour about them. At the end, I’ll share 3 evidence-based tips you can try using right now.

Disclaimer: This post is not for the purpose of diagnosing yourself or others, and it does not replace working with a mental health professional to treat social anxiety disorder.

(Source: Statistics Canada, 2022)

Example Situations

The Dreaded Phone Call

  • The anxiety when the phone rings, waiting for it to go to voicemail even though you know you should probably answer it.
  • That dread when you have to make a call because there’s no option to email or text.

Hiding Redness

  • Trying not to get too warm or feel embarrassed.
  • Looking away or covering your cheek(s) with your hand(s) to try to cool the hot flush and hide it from view.
  • Applying, re-applying, and checking makeup to cover any redness and make sure it’ll hide your blushing in case it happens later.
  • Using one of those green colour-correcting makeups to hide redness (unsuccessfully, I might add...I may be speaking from personal experience).

Hiding Sweatiness

  • Wearing layers so that the sweat doesn’t reach the outer layers of clothing, or wearing less clothing so that you stay cool and won’t sweat as much.
  • Wearing black or navy blue so the sweat marks aren’t visible.
  • Taking bathroom breaks to dab sweat marks with paper towels or tissues, or even using the warm air dryer to dry the sweat marks (if you’re alone in a public bathroom). You might also keep tissues handy to dab your forehead.

The Long Pause

  • You’re listening to someone and they ask you a question or expect you to say something, then suddenly your mind goes blank. It feels like it lasts forever.
  • Your brain just seems to stop working, or maybe your thoughts are racing through all the possible options of what to say, trying to find one that won’t sound weird or stupid.

What Else Can I Say?

  • Like the long pause, you might successfully make small talk or have a bit of a conversation but then you run out of things to say.
  • You don’t want to ask too many questions, in case you come across as nosy or annoying and you’re not sure what to talk about next, so the conversation fizzles out.

Did They Notice That?

  • You feel like everyone is watching, listening, paying attention to everything you do and noticing every embarrassing thing that might happen, like when you trip on an uneven sidewalk, or you’re eating and you get some sauce on your face (or clothes).

Staring at the Floor/Table/Desk/Anything Other Than People’s Faces

  • You’re on a bus, in a waiting room, sitting at a restaurant table, etc. and you focus your eyes down, directly in front of you.
  • You stare at the floor, or table, or people’s shoes as they walk past. You stay glued to your phone. Anything to avoid making eye contact and seeing the judgment in people’s expressions.

Brain: “Let’s go over the replay of that conversation again.”

  • A conversation, meeting, or party ends, and you go away wondering how it went. Maybe you assume it went terribly and you came across as weird, boring, or stupid. You analyze every moment of the interaction, focusing on what you did or said wrong, what their reactions were, what you should’ve done differently, and how likely it is that they’ll never talk to you again.
  • These replays might happen for hours, days, weeks, and you might even remember times when you felt embarrassed years later.

Resting Judgy Face

  • You read judgment, disapproval, or boredom, in people’s faces, even when they’re not really making much of a facial expression.
  • You might say to someone, “You’re not interested, never mind,” or “You think I’m stupid,” pre-emptively trying to protect yourself from their judgment, but they deny it.

Avoiding Interactions with People You Don’t Know

  • You try to avoid things like small talk, asking questions, ordering food, parties, dating and meetups, and networking.

Avoiding Interactions with People You Know

  • You try to avoid things like phone and video conversations, parties, get togethers, reunions, holiday gatherings, sitting together to eat, etc.


  • Presentations in class or at work are anxiety-inducing because you and your project are on display, and the audience can judge you.

Why Are There So Many Group Projects?!

  • The dread and sinking feeling when someone says it’s time to go into breakout rooms to practice, or they say part of your course will be a group project--or a partner project! You wish you could work alone because you get anxious interacting with others.

Writing Your Signature Takes Forever

  • It might seem like as soon as you have to sign a document in front of another person, your signature is the longest written work in modern times, and it takes an eternity while the person watches you.

Can’t Use Public Washrooms

  • That hesitation and inability to go when other people are nearby. Are they listening? Paying attention? Then, because you can’t go, there’s just silence, and you wonder if people will judge you for that, too.

Tips for Managing Social Anxiety

Tip 1. Before you enter a situation you feel anxious about, ask yourself (mentally or try writing it out), what do I fear will happen? Then, challenge yourself to do the activity or go into the situation and pay attention to what happens. Afterwards, report back to yourself (mentally or by writing), did the feared incident occur?

Before the situation: “I have to attend a fancy event and I’m going to wear new shoes. What do I fear will happen? I’ll trip because I’m not used to the shoes, and I’ll fall in front of everyone. They’ll laugh and I won’t be able to handle the embarrassment.” Next, go to the event and pay attention to what actually happens. After the situation: “Did I trip and fall? Did everyone laugh? Was the embarrassment so unbearable, I couldn’t tolerate it?”

Tip 2. Try reflecting on how you view someone else if they’re red, blushing, sweaty, trembling, etc. What do you think about them? Do you think they’re weird or “crazy” or maybe a less valuable person because they look red and sweaty? Probably not. You probably think, “That person is too warm,” or “That person might be nervous,” and that’s the end of it. Imagine this is the response other people have when youlook red or sweaty, if they even notice at all.

Tip 3. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone. You can start small. Pick something that you feel anxious about, but it’s manageable. For example, if making small talk with a neighbour is too hard right now, try calling a random store to ask what their hours are. Once you get the hang of the easier ones, try doing something a bit more challenging. Notice what happens in these situations and notice when your anxiety level goes down. It will decrease on its own if you’re in the situation long enough. Give yourself credit for making this effort. Also notice that you can manage doing things even when you feel anxious.

To learn more about Social Anxiety Disorder and its treatment:

Check out my brief summary of CBT for Social Anxiety

Anxiety Canada has some great info and self-help resources for social anxiety