Yes, you can be a teacher with social anxiety. Here are tips for teachers to be less nervous when teaching.
If you’re a teacher experiencing social anxiety in school, there are many ways you can manage your condition and succeed in the profession you love.
Social anxiety disorder is a recognized and treatable mental health condition classified among anxiety disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR).
Teachers who experience social anxiety at school are not alone. Social anxiety disorder is the third most common psychiatric disorder in the United States after depression and substance misuse.
Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition in which you fear and avoid social situations, especially ones where you anticipate being observed or judged. You may also fear performances, such as
- public speaking
- stage appearances
- playing in sports events
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH),
- face a classroom or lecture hall of students
- have coffee breaks with your colleagues
- attend parent-teacher conferences or faculty gatherings
Symptoms of social anxiety
- lump in the throat
- rapid heart rate
- shaking or trembling
- feeling that your mind has gone blank
- feelings of intense fear and anxiety
- dreading places where there are other people
According to Professor of psychiatry and social work, Dr. Joseph Himle, who’s worked with the Anxieties Disorders program at the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry for 30 years, people with social anxiety disorder may fear commonplace daily interactions, including:
- talking with authoritative figures
- eating and drinking in public
- attending social events
- giving a talk or performing
- working with others
- being the center of attention
Himle says many report the condition’s symptoms feel “demoralizing.”
This has been a common question across social media. Teachers who respond are often very supportive with assurances that all teachers get nervous. They say that being a teacher with social anxiety disorder may not always be easy, but it’s possible.
Although there is no research on the prevalence of social anxiety disorder among teachers, studies do show a high amount of stress in the teaching profession. By 2022, 73%of teachers in a national report said they had frequent job-related stress, twice as many as the general working population.
Recent research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic increased teacher stress, and the return to face-to-face teaching has not yet diminished it.
A 2022 national study showed that K-12 workers have the highest burnout rate (44%) of all professions.
Stress is not the same as social anxiety, but it may play a part.
You may be looking for ways to deal with social anxiety at school. This information posted by the American Psychological Association suggests some coping strategies for teacher stress.
The following tips could help you feel less anxious when teaching.
1. Take care of yourself
You might try meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises.
One study showed that teachers who participate in stress management programs have both mental and physical health benefits.
Yoga with Adrienne has a video especially to help with social anxiety. The Insight Timer meditation app has many guided meditations and courses specifically for social anxiety.
2. Plan ahead (but not down to the letter)
Teachers often say that organization helps them feel in control. You might use
- lesson plans
- electronic calendars
- personal notes to keep yourself on track and still leave room for impromptu questions and answers
You might find our roundup of the best organizational apps for folks with ADHD helpful for your purposes.
3. Change up your classroom activities
You might try new activities if your standard ones trigger your anxiety. For example, try teaching in small groups rather than the whole classroom.
Some high school teachers take the pressure of speaking in front of a class by:
- pre-recording lectures and having students watch and take notes at home
- using class time for what most would consider “homework”
- leveraging the time throughout the period for workshopping any questions 1-on-1 or in small groups
4. Keep a healthy lifestyle
A recent study confirmed the “big three” predictors of mental health and well-being are:
- physical exercise
5. Know your triggers
You may want to pay attention to your social anxiety triggers and develop management strategies for them ahead of time.
6. Get support
Try searching out a supportive friend or support group. You may be surprised at the welcome and help you get.
7. Try therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the leading therapy for social anxiety disorder.
Larry Cohen, co-founder and chair of the National Social Anxiety Center (NSAC), says CBT is the most successful social anxiety disorder treatment, helping 3 out of 4 people with the condition improve.
8. Consider medication
You may not totally get over the anxiety you feel when teaching. But you can try reaching out for support from one of the organizations on this list. There has never been more recognition and support for social anxiety and mental health than there is now.
- National Social Anxiety Center provides self-help videos, personal stories, and help finding treatment for social anxiety disorder.
- The APA Psychologist Locator will help you find a psychologist anywhere in the United States.
- Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety (AKFSA) offers information about the diagnosis and treatment of social anxiety disorder, personal stories, and a network of supportive contacts.
- ADAA Support Groups is a nationwide support group list that includes groups especially for social anxiety disorder.