How Do People With Social Anxiety Disorder Act?

Shy or Quiet

Woman hiding inside her umbrella on a bus.
Overly quiet people sometimes have social anxieyt disorder. Getty / Karin Smeds

Although being shy or introverted does not necessarily equate to having social anxiety, many people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) may come across as shy or quiet, particularly in group settings, when they feel they are under scrutiny, or in unfamiliar settings.

Blushing or Sweating

Man wiping his brow at work.
Sweating can intefere with work life. Getty / Norma Zuniga

Is there a guy in your office who seems to be drenched in sweat at every meeting? A woman who blushes profusely any time she is thrust into the spotlight?

While these may be natural reactions to stressful situations, individuals with social anxiety disorder may experience blushing or sweating that interferes with daily functioning. Unfortunately, these symptoms in and of themselves can set the stage for feeling self-conscious, which perpetuates the vicious circle of social anxiety.

Shaking Hands

Man signing paperwork with a frown.
Shaking hands can be a sign of SAD. Getty / Maskot

Shaking hands can also be a sign of social anxiety disorder. In particular, people with this disorder may shake while holding things (such as a pen, a fork, or a piece of paper) because they worry that others may notice.

Indeed, it is a vicious cycle in which the fear of being observed shaking creates more tension, more anxiety, and more shaking.

Stumbling Over Words

Two silhouettes having trouble communicating.
Talking can be hard for those with SAD. Getty / Roy Scott

People with social anxiety disorder may fumble when speaking. They may talk more quietly than others, have a tremble in their voice, or have trouble finding the right words to express their meaning.

It's not that they aren't as intelligent or witty as those without the disorder—but rather their anxiety interferes with the ability to think quickly on their feet and process what they are trying to say. In some cases, individuals may also suffer with stuttering problems, that can add to feelings of anxiety.

Escape or Avoidance

Man riding an elevator with a book upside down.
Hiding in plain sight describes some people with SAD. Getty / Stephen Swintek

Avoidance and escape play a large part in the lives of those with social anxiety disorder. People with SAD may turn down invitations to parties, cross the street to avoid having to talk to a passerby, and generally do things to escape or avoid social and performance situations.

However, just because there is someone at work who holes up at his desk at lunch, does not mean that he suffers with SAD. The rule of thumb here is that those with SAD wish that they could be more social and do the things that they are too afraid to do.

Safety Behaviors

Woman hiding behind her hands.
Covering one's face can be a way to feel safe. Getty / Pitzeria

Why does your friend always cover her mouth when she talks? If she has SAD, it may be a safety behavior to ease anxiety when she feels overwhelmed. The problem with these safety behaviors is that people with social anxiety disorder become dependent on them to feel okay—and think that without these behaviors they will fall apart.

Lack of Confidence

Man hiding behind a curtain.
A lack of confidence may prevent those with SAD from taking center stage. Getty / Julian Watt

People with SAD may appear to lack confidence. It's obvious why—when you blush, shake, stumble over words, and generally avoid others—confidence easily becomes eroded to the point that others notice.

Lack of Eye Contact

Woman hiding her eyes.
Avoidance of eye contact can be a sign of SAD. Getty / Volanthevist

An inability to look you in the eye while talking may signal a number of things, but it can be one sign of social anxiety disorder. People with the disorder feel judged by the gaze of others, so they do everything they can to avoid eye contact.