Like most emotions, there is a spectrum running from healthy to decidedly not.
Nervousness in unfamiliar social environments is normal, and it is distinct from shyness, which is not defined by a sense of uneasiness. It becomes problematic when it causes a level of distress that starts to affect our lives.
“For people with social phobia (sometimes known as social anxiety disorder), being the focus of other people’s attention can lead to intense anxiety,” Beyond Blue explains. “They may fear being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in the most ordinary, everyday situations.”
Social phobia affects about 10 per cent of Australians in their lifetime, and treatment often involves helping sufferers face their fears in order to desensitise them.