Looking For Patterns in Your Social… | Counseling | Therapy

Looking For Patterns in Your Social Anxiety

Alex Robboy , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

Looking For Patterns in Your Social Anxiety image

Social Anxiety Treatment in Philadelphia: Looking for patterns in your social anxiety When you are struggling with social anxiety, it can feel like every social situation is triggering. While for some this may be true, most people with social anxiety find certain social situations more anxiety provoking than others. More importantly, people with social anxiety can actually have very positive social interactions but struggle with recognizing what these are due to the experiences they have when anxious. Exploring which social situations are more triggering than others will reveal to you important patterns about your social anxiety. Over the next month, use the social anxiety scale below to track your social anxiety in various social situations. Then explore some of the possible patterns to uncover your specific patterns.

Social Anxiety Scale

For each social interaction you have, use the following scale as a baseline to track different aspects of your anxiety. Use a journal or even a smart phone. The important thing is for you to be able to quickly and easily record your experiences just after they happen. It will also help you remember all the events that happened over the last month or two when go back to analyze the experiences. Remember to record positive social interactions! They are key to better understanding your social anxiety and key to you recognizing you do have positive social interactions despite your social anxiety.


Month, Day, Year


Note the time of day

Social Situation:

Describe the interaction and setting in one sentence or less

Physical Symptom:

Record any of the following physical symptoms you experienced from social anxiety…vomiting, headache, sweating, heart palpitations, feeling flushed, panic attacks, hyperventilating, shaking, dizziness, nausea, blushing, tightness in chest, voice changes, diarrhea. Also note whether these symptoms occurred when just thinking about an interaction, or as the interaction occurred.

Cognitive Symptoms & Feelings:

On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being none at all, and 10 being the most you ever had in your life, rate the following…

  • Feeling Worried:
  • Feeling Judged:
  • Feeling Embarrassed:
  • Overall Anxiety:
  • Overall Comfort:

Intensity of Overall Fear:

On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being none at all, and 10 being the most you ever had in your life, rate the overall feelings of fear.

Intensity of Obsessive Thoughts:

On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being none at all, and 10 being the most you ever had in your life, rate the intensity of your obsessive thoughts involved in your social anxiety.

Example of Social Anxiety Scale

Date: June 1st, 2012

Time: around 12PM

Social Situation: Was at deli ordering lunch and the cashier (male in 30s) joked about my order and seemed to be making fun of me.

Physical Symptom: While interaction was happening I felt tightness in chest, blushing & heart race increase.

Cognitive Symptoms & Feelings:

  • Feeling Worried: 2
  • Feeling Judged: 8
  • Feeling Embarrassed: 8
  • Overall Anxiety: 7
  • Overall Comfort: 2

Intensity of Overall Fear: 6

Intensity of Obsessive Thoughts: 8

Date: June 1st 2012

Time: 2:30PM

Social Situation: Had to give a presentation at work in front of a group of 12 of my coworkers, including a few supervisors.

Physical Symptom: Before giving presentation I started sweating, my heart started racing, I felt shaky and nauseous. During the presentation I was able to calm down a bit but still felt shaky.

Cognitive Symptoms & Feelings:

  • Feeling Worried: 4
  • Feeling Judged: 6
  • Feeling Embarrassed: 3
  • Overall Anxiety: 6
  • Overall Comfort: 3

Intensity of Overall Fear: 7

Intensity of Obsessive Thoughts: 6

Date: June 1st 2012

Time: 9:30PM

Social Situation: Met up with some female friends for drinks, felt like I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation but generally enjoyed myself.

Physical Symptom: While interacting I felt some tightness in chest when I felt like I was not contributing to conversation.

Cognitive Symptoms & Feelings:

  • Feeling Worried: 4
  • Feeling Judged: 3
  • Feeling Embarrassed: 2
  • Overall Anxiety: 4
  • Overall Comfort: 6

Intensity of Overall Fear: 3

Intensity of Obsessive Thoughts: 2

After recording your interactions even just for about 2 weeks you can begin to notice patterns. If you don’t notice any patterns after 2 weeks just keep recording. Likely you just need to have more experiences documented for the patterns to reveal themselves. And remember, don’t forget to record the positive experiences too! Generally though, after one month you should be able to notice some kind of pattern. Read about some of the patterns below to guide you.

Group Interactions Versus One-On-One Interactions:
One pattern people notice is that they are more anxious in group interactions compared to one-on-one interactions, or vice versa. Compare at least 3 group interactions to at least 3 one-on-one interactions. Which situation do you typically experience as more anxiety provoking? How can you tell (note differences in your ratings and physical symptoms)?

Strangers Versus People you Know:
Another pattern is that people experience more anxiety with strangers versus people they already know, or vice versa. Compare at least 3 interactions with strangers to 3 interactions with people you know. After reviewing these scenarios, are you more triggered by interactions with strangers or people you know? What evidence do you have to support your theory (look at your ratings and physical symptoms)?

Specific Types of People (based on 1st impressions):
Some people with social anxiety find certain characteristics of people more triggering than others. Consider your general gut reactions or 1st impressions of people. Review your log of social anxiety scales and see if there is a certain type of person that is associated with high levels of social anxiety. Look at factors like age, gender, race, disability status, style of dress—more appearance based characteristics.

Personality Types:
Other people find they not as triggered by appearances as they are by certain personality traits. Are you triggered more by cocky people, shy people, arrogant people, unfriendly people, angry people, overly relaxed people? Make sure to note the types of personalities that you seem least triggered by.

Environmental Factors:
Sometimes people notice that their social anxiety might be influenced by environmental factors like being outside at a BBQ versus being inside a busy grocery store. Revisit your descriptions of recorded social interactions to explore the environmental factors.

Your Role in the Social Interactions:
Do you have less social anxiety or more when you have an active role in the social event (for instance, consider hosting a party, versus just being a guest at a party)? Sometimes the roles you may have to play in certain social interactions can be more anxiety provoking than others. Some people experience more social anxiety when they have an active role in an event because they feel as though more eyes are on them. However other people can feel in more control when they are in an active role, and thus experience less anxiety.

Conclusion…Finding patterns in your social anxiety will help you realize that you do not have social anxiety in every social situation, and in fact there might be many different social situations where you feel quite comfortable. Knowing what situations or types of people seem to trigger your social anxiety more will enable you to appropriately plan for these situations. In addition you can develop specific and effective coping skills for the social situations you know you are more triggered by.

Social Anxiety Treatment in Center City Philadelphia. Call today to schedule an appointment. 267 324 9564.

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