Feeling Socially Anxious at University: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Jennifer Lee, Daniel Waldeck, Andrew J. Holliman, Moitree Banerjee, Ian Tyndall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
90 Downloads (Pure)


For those with feelings of social anxiety, university can present unique challenges. Socially anxious students can face functional impairments such as interpersonal and academic deficits, as well as social maladjustment due to a shift in their social networks. Despite this, there is surprisingly little research exploring their experiences at university using qualitative designs. The present study set out to explore how a small sample of undergraduate students experienced feeling socially anxious at university. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight psychology undergraduates and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to explore their experiences and interpret deeper meaning. Five main themes emerged, two of which are presented in the present study: “persistent self-consciousness” and “avoiding reality.” Findings are discussed in relation to Clark and Wells’ (1995) cognitive model of social anxiety as well as existing literature. Areas requiring further exploration are discussed, as well as how universities may support socially anxious students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)897-919
Number of pages23
JournalQualitative Report
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.


  • Interpretative
  • Phenomenological Analysis
  • qualitative research methodology
  • social anxiety
  • social phobia
  • university

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


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