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Below you will find a number of hypothetical anecdotes that are characteristic of social anxiety. The common thread in each case is the self-conscious anticipation that one will be judged negatively, embarassed, or humiliated in a social interaction and that the immediate impulse will be towards a self-protective withdrawal. These examples are by no means exhaustive.  Nor are they to suggest that anyone who has experienced similar emotions is necessarily suffering from social anxiety disorder.   Everyone has gone through moments of social awkwardness and shyness.  What distinguishes the social phobic is a recurring pattern of fear and avoidance of social situations to the extent that one's quality of life clearly suffers.

he ring of the phone prompts a nervous stirring.  Thankful for the answering machine, Julie has a few seconds before deciding whether to pick up the reciever while she screens the call.  A telemarketer she can safely ignore, but what if it's her boss?  And what if it's bad news?  What if she answers and her throat catches as she speaks and her voice sounds weak?

Tim is at a party he has reluctantly been taken to by a friend.  Everyone appears to be having a good time as his friend drags him into a circle of people and introduces him.  He feels a lump in his throat grow to the size of a basketball as the group turns and smiles, awaiting his first words.  Tim wants to enjoy this gathering but decides at that moment he would be better off if he had stayed home and not risked looking like a fool as he struggled to open his mouth.

Everybody seems to be looking at Jeff as he enters the meeting late.   Already he feels self-conscious that he has drawn attention to himself.  He has come to the meeting knowing he has an important statement to make that he has practiced. When the appropriate time for his comment arrives his heart rate speeds up, he begins to sweat, and he finds himself unable to raise his hand.  He goes home frustrated by his silence.

Dan's co-workers all take lunch at a great diner down the street.   Unfortunately, the path to the diner goes right by a cafe where dozens of people eat and watch the crowd move along the walkway.  For Dan, this cafe is like a gauntlet, where a multitude of strangers will criticize his appearance and will realize that even his stride seems unnatural.  Rather than lunch with his friends, Dan brownbags it.  

Tina has watched a makeover show on Oprah and mustered the courage to go to the department store and get a free makeover at the cosmetic counter.  Once sitting in the chair, she suddenly feels ugly and ridiculous, knowing that the makeup artist is secretly laughing at her and that everyone who walks by is in on the joke.

Brent has been overcharged on his credit card for an expensive item he didn't buy. He has the 800 number for his bank in front of him and tries to work up the resolve to make a complaint.  Even though he has never met the faceless person on the other end of the line, he knows they will doubt his account and will argue the charge.   Conflict is something he just doesn't need right now.  He hangs up the phone without dialing, thinking that he'd rather pay than confront someone who will judge against him.

Evan's smile feels false on his face even though he means it to be genuine.  He knows they see that he isn't relaxed and that his face is strained and that they'll never really like him.

Ben has a presentation to make in his English class.  He has known about it for two months and it counts for one half of his grade.  He prepares his talk, spending hours reading and taking notes, but an hour before the class calls the teacher and fakes an illness.


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