Can you experience social anxiety at the gym?

Can you experience social anxiety at the gym?

Experiencing social anxiety at the gym is very common when an individual starts working out in a new place.

Individuals with social anxiety disorder have extreme fears about going to the gym or attending classes involving social factors such that it hampers their normal functioning and makes it difficult for them to make it through the day.

What are the symptoms of social anxiety experienced by going to the gym?

The symptoms of social anxiety can be both physical and psychological resulting from visiting the gym.

The most significant physical symptoms of social anxiety are:

·      Nausea

·      Excessive sweating

·      Shaking or trembling

·      Lightheadedness or feeling dizzy

·      Increased heart rate

The psychological symptoms that individual experiences during a social anxiety attack are:

·      Excessive and intensive worry about the social situation

·      Worrying days or even weeks ahead of going to the gym

·      Trying to camouflage themselves in the background to avoid the social situation on a whole

·      The constant worry of being observed by other people

·      To avoid social contact an individual might also miss out on the gym.

In addition, these individuals with social anxiety may avoid social interactions such as asking another person a question when in doubt, potential job interviews, shopping, using public services like washrooms, carrying out activities in public such as speaking, or even eating in that matter.


What are some social anxiety triggers at the gym?

Many aspects of a gym might be the source for anxiety trigger in an individual these triggers might heighten the anxiety in individuals with social anxiety:

Some sources of triggers in the gym are:

  • Feeling anxious about people in better shape
  • Finding it difficult to use the equipment efficiently
  • A sense of being stared at by other individuals
  • Experiencing anxiety about sweating
  • A sense of difficulty or worry about making small talks with others in the gym
  • Experiencing anxiety about using a public restroom
  • Experiencing anxiety about changing in front of other people in the gym.
  • Experiencing discomfort while attending group sessions

What are some ways to cope with social anxiety at a gym?

There are several coping techniques that individuals can adopt while experiencing social anxiety at a gym:

Managing thoughts

One can actively manage or push back negative thoughts that lead to anxiety. This can be done by evaluating the various evidence that indicates if a thought is true or false and challenging or replacing it with more realistic and positive thoughts that help individuals to cope successfully

For instance, if an individual experiences an anxious thought about everyone staring at them they can actively replace it with a realistic thought that everyone is more focused on themselves and their workout rather than the other person’s activity.

Individuals’ negative thoughts greatly impact their negative emotions and negative behaviors. Thu challenging and changing these negative thoughts into more positive ones help to carry out positive emotions and behaviors that are desirable for normal functioning.

Build confidence

An individual experiencing social anxiety at a gym must actively work on building their confidence.

Building individuals confidence can be done in several ways such as:

Maintaining consistency

The more often an individual visits the gym the more familiar they get with the environment each time. It is believed that when individuals avoid anxiety-provoking situations it does not help to reduce the source of anxiety but maintains the anxiety that an individual has towards the environment.

Develop awareness about gym equipment

Being aware of the gym equipment before going to the gym helps individuals feel less intimidated and more familiarized with the purpose of each piece of equipment. This in turn helps to increase the confidence an individual has while using the equipment in front of others.

Increasing confidence by being active


It is important to realize that an individual’s confidence will increase once they exercise and become more physically active and fit.


Proper clothing

individuals can also buy gym clothes that make them more confident while they were them to the gym.

Gradual exposure

studies indicate that exposure to situations that trigger anxiety in a graded manner helps to bring down the level of anxiety caused by the situation.

In other words, it is also called systematic desensitization. this is usually carried out in a guided manner where therapists usually expose individuals to the least threatening situations.

By making them comfortable with these least threatening situations therapist progress with more complex anxiety-provoking situations and try to make an individual feel comfortable with each situation by exposing them to it gradually

Seek help

individuals struggling to overcome their social anxiety at the gym can also seek help from their family, friends, or professionals.

They can visit the gym with someone they are already familiar with and feel comfortable going to the gym with.

Talking about one’s feelings with their close ones or a professional help them to figure out ways in which they can reduce the symptoms of their social anxiety to an extent that it does not hamper their needs, goals, and daily functioning.

Look at alternatives

finally, if an individual feels that working out at a gym is something that does not suit them at all they might look at other activities such as working out at home, swimming, running, walking that might help to maintain their health and keep them active.

How to kill social anxiety using other methods?

Like other physical conditions, even social anxiety has different approaches for its management and treatment. Some people might only need a single type of treatment while others might require a combination of approaches.

Some of the ways to manage or treat social anxiety disorders are:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular situation that they usually fear in a graded manner.

It usually starts with exposing the individual to a situation that is least triggering when the individual gets comfortable with this situation introduced or exposed to them with each session individuals become comfortable with a real-life situation that is otherwise anxiety-provoking.

Group therapy

As the name suggests group therapy usually involves two or more individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.

It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same condition or fears they might not feel left alone or isolated.

This kind of therapy also helps in developing and maintaining social skills or techniques to interact with people in other social settings.

 Prescribed medication

Social anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health professional. There are different types of anxiety medications each with its benefits and side effects.


Experiencing social anxiety at a gym is very common for individuals especially those with a history of social anxiety.

Social anxiety at the gym can be caused due to various reasons such as poor self-esteem, poor body image, lower confidence, lack of motivation, and lack of persistence.

individuals must stay active and fit to maintain an overall optimal mental and physical well-being. To do so individuals might initially have to deal with their fears and discomfort associated with going to the gym.

individuals can seek professional help to tackle the negative thoughts that are associated with visiting the gym or talk about their feelings with family and friends.

Frequently asked questions

How do I go to the gym with social anxiety?

Setting some goals might motivate individuals to go to the gym some goals that an individual can set to meet at the gym are:

  • Walking around in a gym after reaching for awhile
  • Working on machine exercises for about 10 minutes
  • Initiating small talks with other familiar members in the gym
  • Talking a group class such as yoga or Zumba

Does gym help with social anxiety?

People with social anxiety do report benefiting from a combination of exercise and therapy. Studies indicate that exercise helps to improve an individual’s confidence and self-esteem leading to an overall improvement in well-being. Regular exercises have proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety

What is gym phobia?

Gym phobia refers to the fear of going to the gym and working out in front of others.

Why do I feel awkward at the gym?

Being uncomfortable at the gym is normal to many individuals. This can be due to many reasons such as poor self-esteem, low confidence, poor body image, or even low energy and motivation

Can social anxiety be cured?

Social anxiety cannot be cured, for many people, it gets better as they get older. However, for many people, it does not go away completely on its own without seeking therapy.

It is important that individuals actively seek help for their social anxiety symptoms