Social Anxiety: What Is It and How Does One Cope?

By Emma Yasukawa

Everyone has been put in an uncomfortable social situation; whether it was meeting someone new, going on a first date, or briefly meeting a stranger on the streets. Though these feelings are not pleasant, most people can power through and get over them quickly. However, if a person has social anxiety, these feelings are so severe that they can sometimes be too much to handle. Eventually, that individual will try to isolate themselves and avoid any uncomfortable social situation. This may provide a great form of relief but overall, it is a temporary solution to a greater problem.

Social anxiety disorder (formerly known as social phobia) is characterized by the persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or judgement by others. The feelings that stem from social anxiety are usually based upon the fear that the individual will act in a certain way, or show anxiety symptoms, that will be embarrassing and humiliating. Common physical symptoms that a person may experience are:
• Flushing of the skin
• Rapid heartbeat
• Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
• Upset stomach and nausea
• Trembling

Social anxiety can be treated successfully through psychotherapy and/or medications. Exposure therapy is a key element in the use of therapy and usually involves three stages: The first stage of exposure therapy is to introduce the individual to the feared situation. The second stage is to increase the risk of displeasure for the goal that the individual can build self-confidence and be able to handle any rejection or criticism. The third stage involves working out different coping mechanisms involving disapproval. In this final stage, the therapist may ask the patient to imagine their worst-case scenario in order to develop correct constructive responses.

If you or someone you know is struggling with social anxiety, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit


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