Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is a fear, anxiety and avoidance surrounding normal social situations. This is different from shyness, as there is an intense fear that cannot be controlled rather than discomfort. Symptoms of social anxiety include: anxiety or fear surrounding social interactions, being observed, and performing in front of others; fear that anxiety will be apparent to others; social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety; situations are avoided or endured with intense anxiety; anxiety or fear is disproportionate to the actual threat posed by the situation. This must cause significant distress that lasts six months or longer without being attributable to any other substance or mental disorder. It is estimated that about 7% of Americans suffer from social anxiety at any one time. Treatment involves typically a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy can be in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy or group therapy. Medications like anti-anxiety, antidepressants, and beta-blockers can be helpful in reducing symptoms. Beta-blockers, instead of targeting the brain, target the physical symptoms that appear while anxious. This may help sufferers with panicking about being anxious or panicking that others can see they are anxious.
Much of the college experience is about navigating differing social situations. Someone with social anxiety has almost an inability to do this. They have such intense fear and anxiety surrounding the situation that they cannot enjoy the interaction or take anything away from it. Going to class, speaking up in class, and doing presentations cause so much fear and anxiety that they are avoided, which can cause academic decline. Social situations like going out with friends or even meeting new people are difficult. College is all about thriving in these interactions and getting the most out of these experiences, and someone with social anxiety will try to avoid all of that even if it would be beneficial to them. Some people will attempt to use drugs or alcohol to cope with the anxiety, which can lead to a substance abuse problem and does not actually relieve the anxiety. The best thing for someone with social anxiety is to go to therapy and/or take medication. This will help them navigate social situations better and lead a more fulfilling life.