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Understanding Social Anxiety in Adulthood: Signs, Symptoms, and Therapeutic Strategies

Social anxiety disorder often misunderstood as mere shyness, can have a profound impact on an adult’s life. It is a condition that goes beyond occasional nervousness in social settings. Rather, it’s characterized by intense, persistent fear of being judged or negatively evaluated by others.

Recognizing Social Anxiety in Adulthood

Social anxiety is more than the feeling of butterflies in your stomach before a public speech. Adults with social anxiety might experience symptoms that significantly affect daily functioning and hinder personal relationships such as:

  • Intense fear of social interactions where embarrassment may occur.
  • Avoidance of social situations to a degree that limits one’s life.
  • Physical symptoms such as blushing, nausea, excessive sweating, or trembling during social interactions.
  • Excessive worry about a social event weeks in advance.
  • Difficulty making eye contact, speaking, or being introduced to new people.
  • High sensitivity to criticism or perceived negative evaluations.
  • Low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority relative to peers.

Social anxiety is often accompanied by a constant inner monologue of self-criticism and worry about the smallest nuances of interaction, and replying of social situations following them occurring.

Effective Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been widely recognized as one of the most effective forms of treatment for social anxiety. CBT works on the principle that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected, and that changing negative thought patterns can result in changes to how we feel and behave.

Exposure Therapy

One subset of CBT, exposure therapy, involves gradual exposure to the social situations that elicit anxiety. Under the guidance of a therapist, you safely encounter the source of your fear without the intent to cause any harm or distress, which in turn reduces the fear response over time.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)—a form of CBT—focuses on identifying irrational beliefs and actively challenging and disputing these thoughts. It encourages a more realistic and rational way of thinking, which can reduce the emotional and behavioral impact of anxiety.

How to Seek Help

If you are experiencing symptoms of social anxiety as an adult, know that it’s important to seek help. Locating a licensed therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders, particularly social anxiety, can be the first step toward improving your quality of life. Many therapists offer CBT, REBT, and exposure therapy, and it’s worth discussing each option to see which might be the best fit for you. Remember that while social anxiety can feel isolating, you are not alone, and effective treatments are available. These strategies can lead to significant improvements in symptoms, and most importantly, they can help you reclaim the joys of social interaction and build meaningful connections in your life.


Social anxiety in adulthood is a challenge, but it’s one that can be met with the right information and support. Take proactive steps towards understanding and addressing your social anxiety; reach out for help, explore therapeutic options, and begin the path toward recovery and confidence in social situations. Remember, you are not alone and there is hope for a healthier and happier future. At GroundWork in Orlando we provide evidence-based therapy to children, teens, and adults struggling with social anxiety – we’re here to help!

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GroundWork Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
341 N Maitland Ave #330
Maitland, FL 32751


411 Congress St #3292
Portland, ME 04101

Burlington, VT 05043

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In-person appointments available in Central Florida. By appointment only.

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