- What Is Social Anxiety Disorder? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
- Medication Options
- Alternative and Complementary Therapies
- Prevention of Social Anxiety Disorder
- Penn Psychiatry
- Common Symptoms
- Additional Symptoms
- Onset & Course
- Epidemiological Information
- What Causes this Disorder
- More Information
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Performance Situations
- Interpersonal Interactions
- Negative thoughts (what you think)
- Physical symptoms (what you feel)
- Avoidance and safety behaviors (what you do)
- When Does Social Anxiety Become a Problem?
- Work and school
- Recreational activities/hobbies
- Day-to-day activities
- Social Phobia
- What Happens When Someone Has Social Phobia?
- What Causes Social Phobia?
- What Fears Are Involved?
- How Can Social Phobia Affect Someone's Life?
- What Is Selective Mutism?
- Why Do Some People Develop Social Phobia?
- Dealing With Social Phobia
- Overcoming Social Phobia
- Mental Health
- What is It?
- Who Does It Affect?
- What can I do about it?
- Where do I go from here?
- © 2013 | Back to top | PDF | More info sheets
- Social Anxiety Test: 3-Minute Self-Assessment
- How Accurate Is It?
- How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Treated?
- Social Anxiety FAQs
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
Treatment for social anxiety disorder is intended to help you function in your daily life. (2) The two most common types of treatment for social anxiety disorder are psychotherapy (psychological counseling or talk therapy), medications, or both, according to the Mayo Clinic. (4)
Psychotherapy helps most people with social anxiety disorder, because it teaches you how to change negative thoughts about yourself. You also learn skills that help you gain confidence in social situations.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective type of psychotherapy for anxiety, and it works just as well whether it’s conducted individually or in groups.
In exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy, you work up to facing the situations you fear most, little by little. This can help you develop the confidence you need to cope with anxiety-provoking social situations. You may also engage in social skills training or role-playing to practice your social skills.
CBT may even create positive changes in the brain.
A study published in August 2017 in Molecular Psychiatry found that when those with social anxiety disorder participated in 10 weeks of CBT group therapy, it reduced the size of parts of the brain that process and regulate emotions. (6) Scientists call this process «normalizing,» and the changes were more pronounced when the therapy was most successful.
Certain medications typically used to treat depression may be very helpful for social anxiety disorder, by preventing symptoms or making them less severe. (2) These medications include:
- Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be used when social anxiety is present with other anxiety or depressive disorders. In these cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe Paxil (paroxetine) or Zoloft (sertraline), per the Mayo Clinic. (4)
- The serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) Effexor XR (venlafaxine) is another medication option for social anxiety disorder. Other antidepressants may also be recommended.
- Beta-blockers block the stimulating effect of epinephrine (adrenaline). They may reduce heart rate, blood pressure, pounding of the heart, and shaking voice and limbs, so they may be prescribed to control symptoms for a particular anxiety-inducing situation, giving a speech.
Alternative and Complementary Therapies
Various herbal supplements have been studied as treatments for anxiety, with mixed results, according to the Mayo Clinic. (4)
Supplements such as kava and valerian increase the risk of serious liver damage.
Others, such as passionflower or theanine, may have a calming effect, but they're often combined with other products, so their effectiveness on their own remains unclear.
Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal remedies or supplements to make sure they're safe for you and won't interact with any medications you take.
Healthy lifestyle changes may help reduce the frequency of social anxiety attacks, including exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and having regularly scheduled meals. (2) Reducing or avoiding the use of caffeine, some over-the-counter cold medicines, and other stimulants may also be beneficial. Joining a support group may also reduce the stress of having social anxiety.
The following tips may also help you avoid triggering your social anxiety symptoms:
- Learn stress reduction skills
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Socialize with people you feel comfortable being around
Learn More About Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder: Medication, Alternative and Complementary Therapies, and More
Prevention of Social Anxiety Disorder
There's no way to prevent social anxiety disorder, but these techniques can help you reduce anxiety symptoms, per the Mayo Clinic: (4)
Get help as soon as possible. Anxiety can be more difficult to treat if you delay seeking treatment.
Start journaling. Keeping a record of your thoughts and experiences can help you and your healthcare provider figure out what's causing your symptoms and what makes you feel better.
Figure out your priorities. Carefully manage your time and energy, and spend time doing things you enjoy.
Avoid unhealthy substance use. Using alcohol and drugs, as well as caffeine or nicotine, can cause anxiety or make it worse. But quitting can also cause anxiety. If you’re addicted to any substances, look for a doctor, treatment program, or support group that can help.
Telehealth options are available at the CTSA. Click HERE to learn more.
- Onset and Course
- More Information
Many people feel nervous in certain social settings. Meeting new people, going on a date, giving a performance — nearly everyone has experienced the anxiety that these situations can provoke.
Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, however, describes a marked, intense, and persistent fear of social situations that can be differentiated from the more typical fear that comes with discomforting situations.
The anxiety associated with SAD not only leaks into an individual’s social life but interferes with his or her everyday activities and professional life. While other mental health disorders cause social anxiety symptoms (e.g. sweating, palpitations, or panic attacks), social anxiety disorder refers only to individuals who specifically avoid or fear social situations.
The first mention of social anxiety disorder dates back to 400 B.C. It is popularly accepted that Hippocrates made mention of the disorder while describing a man who «loves darkness as life and…thinks every man observes him.» The socially phobic person’s tendency to overestimate the extent to which others «observe him» is characteristic of the disorder.
Individuals suffering from social anxiety disorder typically experience the following symptoms:
- Marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others (e.g. having a conversation, meeting new people, giving a speech, eating in front of others)
- The individual fears that he or she will act in a way or show anxiety symptoms that will be negatively evaluated (will be humiliating or embarrassing, or lead to rejection)
- Social situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety, and are avoided or endured with fear or anxiety
- The fear or anxiety is proportion to the actual threat posed by the situation and context
Those diagnosed with social anxiety disorder are continually hindered by the feeling that “all eyes are upon them.” While many people have memories of being discomforted by a social situation, an individual with social anxiety disorder is debilitated by the feeling.
The anxiety may interfere with an individual’s professional life, academic life as well as his or her everyday activities, often hindering an individual’s ability to form intimate relationships.
Importantly, a person also develops a fear of the phobia itself, reinforcing the initial avoidance reaction.
Social anxiety disorder is harder to diagnose in children. Because children do not have the means to describe the quality of their anxiety as effectively as adults, the disorder may go unrecognized despite a child developing habits frequently encountered with social anxiety.
Some common personality and behavioral traits seen in children with social anxiety disorder are crying, tantrums, clinging to familiar people, extreme shyness, refusing to speak in front of their class, and fear or timidity in new settings and with new people.
In order for a child to be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, the child must experience anxiety with their peers as well as with adults but also show the capacity to form social relationships with familiar people.
There are a number of traits frequently seen in individuals with social anxiety disorder that the clinical description of the disease does not take into account. Such traits include a difficulty being assertive, feelings of inferiority, and a hypersensitivity to criticism and other negative judgments that can lead to excessive anger.
This hypersensitivity also results in fear of others making both direct and indirect judgments. Thus, individuals with social anxiety disorder may have extreme test anxiety or refuse to participate in class. This compromises academic performance and later professional performance and may lead to both dropping school and long-term unemployment.
Unsurprisingly, the social limitations of the disorder also make it more difficult for those with social anxiety disorder to develop intimate relations. They are less ly to marry, less ly to have fulfilling friendships, and more ly to live with members of their biological family.
Suicidal thoughts are also associated with severe cases, particularly when other disorders are present. The strong feelings of fear and despair lead to substance abuse and the development of other anxiety and mood disorders.
In addition, many other mental health disorders have features associated with social anxiety disorder.
Particularly, social anxiety disorder is highly correlated with the presence of avoidant personality disorder. There has, however, been a long-standing debate within the mental health community questioning whether avoidant personality disorder and social anxiety disorder are in fact distinct disorders.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) currently defines them as two separate disorders; however, many dispute this fact on the basis of both the overlapping clinical criteria and experimental evidence. Empirical results suggest that avoidant personality disorder is a more severe form of social anxiety disorder.
Avoidant personality disorder is characterized as an inability to relate to others while social anxiety disorder is defined as an inability to perform in social situations.
Nonetheless, the generalized form of social anxiety disorder does indeed seem to encompass an element of avoidant personality disorder, strengthening the argument that the difference between the disorders is a matter of severity.
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Onset & Course
Social anxiety disorder can affect people of any age. However, the disorder typically emerges during adolescence in teens with a history of social inhibition or shyness.
The onset is usually accompanied by a stressful or humiliating experience and the severity varies by individual. Risks have been defined to be temperamental, environmental, genetic, and physiological.
The disorder is divided into the following two categories:
- Generalized: symptoms present in most social situations
- Nongeneralized (specific): symptoms present in specific social situations
Individuals who develop generalized social anxiety disorder fear most social settings; this includes both social interactions as well as performance situations. Often the range of social fears is so large that individuals do not report the list in full.
Individuals who identify a less extensive list of fears meet the criteria for nongeneralized social anxiety disorder.
These individuals may fear one specific situation or several settings but they do not fear most situations and such cases typically do not involve symptoms as severe as generalized social anxiety disorder.
The severity of the disorder, both generalized and nongeneralized, may be influenced by a variety of stressors in an individual’s life. At times, the symptoms diminish for stretches of time during adulthood or they worsen with the events, such as a change in job or the loss of a spouse. Nonetheless, the symptoms typically persist in some form and intensity for the duration of one’s life.
The lifetime prevalence of social anxiety disorder varies with respect to gender and ethnic background. Research estimates that 12% of the U.S. population meets the criteria for social anxiety disorder with rates in other countries varying widely. Women are more ly to develop the disorder than men.
The disorder is prevalent in other populations; however, the anxiety may present itself differently. One form of the disorder, Taijin Kyofusho, is strongly culture-specific. Taijin Kyofusho is primarily found in Japan and Korea, and many of the features of the disorder reflect cultural differences that exist between American and Japanese culture.
Un the more westernized form of social anxiety disorder, individuals with Taijin Kyofusho do not fear embarrassing themselves but rather have an irrational fear that others will be embarrassed by their own smell, facial expression (e.g. blushing), or movements. They have a persistent fear that their physical presence will be offensive or displeasing.
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What Causes this Disorder
There is evidence that genetic factors may play a role in the development of social anxiety disorder, particularly in for the generalized form.
There is a higher incidence of social anxiety disorder in individuals with first-degree relatives affected by other panic and anxiety disorders. However, there is no one gene that explains this biological trend.
General findings indicate that personal experiences, social environment, and biology all play a role in the development of the disorder.
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National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) An organization with the National Institute of health dedicated to mental health research:
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder
Feb 19 • 2019
Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders. People with social anxiety disorder tend to feel quite nervous or uncomfortable in social situations. They are very concerned that they will do something embarrassing or humiliating, or that others will think badly of them. These individuals are very self-conscious and constantly feel “on stage.”
A social situation includes any situation in which you and at least 1 other person are present. Social situations tend to fall into 2 main categories: performance situations and interpersonal interactions.
These are situations where people feel they are being observed by others. Examples include:
- Public speaking (e.g. presenting at a meeting
- Participating in meetings or classes(e.g. asking or answering questions)
- Eating in front of others
- Using public washrooms
- Writing in front of others (e.g. signing a cheque of filling out a form)
- Performing in public (e.g. singing or acting on stage, or playing a sport)
- Entering a room where everyone is already seated
These are situations where people are interacting with others and developing closer relationships. Examples include:
- Meeting new people
- Talking to co-workers or friends
- Inviting others to do things
- Going to social events (e.g. parties or dinners)
- Being assertive
- Expressing opinions
- Talking on the phone
- Working in a group (e.g. working on a project with other co-workers)
- Ordering food at a restaurant
- Returning something at a store
- Having a job interview
Note: It is not uncommon for people to fear some social situations and feel quite comfortable in others.
For example, some people are comfortable spending time with friends and family, and interacting socially with co-workers but are very fearful of performance situations, such as participating in business meetings or giving formal speeches.
Also, some people fear only a single situation (such as public speaking), while others fear and avoid a wide range of social situations.
When faced with a feared social situation, people with social anxiety experience some of the following:
Negative thoughts (what you think)
- People with social anxiety tend to have negative thoughts about themselves (e.g. “I’ll have nothing to say”), as well as how others will react to them (e.g. “Others will think I’m weird”)
- People with social anxiety also tend to focus their attention on themselves during social situations. They focus on their performance and how anxious they feel and look
- Examples: “I’m going to say something stupid” ; “I’ll get anxious and others will notice” ; “They won’t me” ; “Others will think I’m stupid” ; “I’ll offend someone” ; or “No one will talk to me”
Physical symptoms (what you feel)
- People with social anxiety are often very concerned about visible signs of anxiety, such as blushing or trembling.
- Examples: racing heart, upset stomach, shaking, choking sensations, sweating, blushing, trembling, dry mouth, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision, urge to urinate, etc.
Avoidance and safety behaviors (what you do)
- People with social anxiety will often try to avoid or escape social situations. If they do go into social situations, they tend to do things to feel less anxious or to protect themselves from embarrassment or negative evaluation (e.g. if I’m worried about saying something stupid, then I’ll try to avoid talking).
- Examples: Avoiding (e.g. not going to the party), escaping a scary social situation (e.g. leaving the party early) or engaging in protective behaviours to try and stay safe (e.g. drinking alcohol, staying quiet and avoiding eye contact).
When Does Social Anxiety Become a Problem?
It’s normal to feel anxious in social situations from time to time. For example, many people feel anxious in job interviews or when having to give a formal speech. Social anxiety can be a problem when it becomes too intense or happens too often. When it does, social anxiety can cause significant distress and affect many aspects of a person’s life including:
Work and school
- Examples: difficulty with job interviews; problems interacting with bosses or co-workers; trouble asking and answering questions in meetings or classes; refusing job promotions; avoiding certain types of jobs or career paths; poor performance at work or school; decreased enjoyment of work or school.
- Examples: difficulty developing and keeping friendships and romantic relationships; trouble opening up to others; difficulty sharing opinions
- Examples: avoid trying new things; avoid taking classes or lessons; avoid activities that involve interacting with others, such as going skiing or to the gym
- Examples: difficulty completing daily activities, such as going grocery shopping, going out to eat, taking the bus, asking for directions, etc.
MAP is designed to provide adults struggling with anxiety with practical strategies and tools to manage anxiety. To find out more, visit our My Anxiety Plan website.
Sandra is a 35-year-old single woman who lives alone. She feels extremely uncomfortable interacting with other people, and worries that others think badly of her. She was extremely anxious …
Michael is a 44-year-old married man who lives with his wife and two children. He is worried about being negatively evaluated when he interacts with authority figures at work (…
It's natural to feel self-conscious, nervous, or shy in front of others at times. Most people get through these moments when they need to. But for some, the anxiety that goes with feeling shy or self-conscious can be extreme.
When people feel so self-conscious and anxious that it prevents them from speaking up or socializing most of the time, it's probably more than shyness. It may be an anxiety condition called social phobia (also called social anxiety).
What Happens When Someone Has Social Phobia?
Extreme feelings of shyness and self-consciousness build into a powerful fear. As a result, a person feels uncomfortable participating in everyday social situations.
People with social phobia can usually interact easily with family and a few close friends. But meeting new people, talking in a group, or speaking in public can cause their extreme shyness to kick in.
With social phobia, a person's extreme shyness, self-consciousness, and fears of embarrassment get in the way of life. Instead of enjoying social activities, people with social phobia might dread them — and avoid some of them altogether.
What Causes Social Phobia?
other phobias, social phobia is a fear reaction to something that isn't actually dangerous — although the body and mind react as if the danger is real.
This means that someone feels physical sensations of fear, a faster heartbeat and breathing. These are part of the body's fight–flight response.
They're caused by a rush of adrenaline and other chemicals that prepare the body to either fight or make a quick getaway.
This biological mechanism kicks in when we feel afraid. It's a built-in nervous system response that alerts us to danger so we can protect ourselves.
With social phobia, this response gets activated too often, too strongly, and in situations where it's place.
Because the physical sensations that go with the response are real — and sometimes quite strong — the danger seems real too. So the person will react by freezing up, and will feel unable to interact.
As the body experiences these physical sensations, the mind goes through emotions feeling afraid or nervous.
People with social phobia tend to interpret these sensations and emotions in a way that leads them to avoid the situation («Uh-oh, my heart's pounding, this must be dangerous — I'd better not do it!»).
Someone else might interpret the same physical sensations of nervousness a different way («OK, that's just my heart beating fast. It's me getting nervous because it's almost my turn to speak. It happens every time.
No big deal.»).
What Fears Are Involved?
With social phobia, a person's fears and concerns are focused on their social performance — whether it's a major class presentation or small talk at the lockers.
People with social phobia tend to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable about being noticed or judged by others.
They're more sensitive to fears that they'll be embarrassed, look foolish, make a mistake, or be criticized or laughed at. No one wants to go through these things.
But most people don't really spend much time worrying about it. The fear and anxiety are proportion to the situation.
How Can Social Phobia Affect Someone's Life?
With social phobia, thoughts and fears about what others think get exaggerated in someone's mind. The person starts to focus on the embarrassing things that could happen, instead of the good things. This makes a situation seem much worse than it is, and influences a person to avoid it.
Some of the ways social phobia can affect someone's life include:
- Feeling lonely or disappointed over missed opportunities for friendship and fun. Social phobia might prevent someone from chatting with friends in the lunchroom, joining an after-school club, going to a party, or asking someone on a date.
- Not getting the most school. Social phobia might keep a person from volunteering an answer in class, reading aloud, or giving a presentation. Someone with social phobia might feel too nervous to ask a question in class or go to a teacher for help.
- Missing a chance to share their talents and learn new skills. Social phobia might prevent someone from auditioning for the school play, being in the talent show, trying out for a team, or joining in a service project. Social phobia not only prevents people from trying new things. It also prevents them from making the normal, everyday mistakes that help people improve their skills still further.
What Is Selective Mutism?
Some kids and teens are so extremely shy and so fearful about talking to others, that they don't speak at all to some people (such as a teacher or students they don't know) or in certain places ( at someone else's house). This form of social phobia is sometimes called selective mutism.
People with selective mutism can talk. They have completely normal conversations with the people they're comfortable with or in certain places. But other situations cause them such extreme anxiety that they may not be able to bring themselves to talk at all.
Some people might mistake their silence for a stuck-up attitude or rudeness. But with selective mutism and social phobia, silence stems from feeling uncomfortable and afraid, not from being uncooperative, disrespectful, or rude.
Why Do Some People Develop Social Phobia?
Kids, teens, and adults can have social phobia. Most of the time, it starts when a person is young. other anxiety-based problems, social phobia develops because of a combination of three factors:
- A person's biological makeup. Social phobia could be partly due to the genes and temperament a person inherits. Inherited genetic traits from parents and other relatives can influence how the brain senses and regulates anxiety, shyness, nervousness, and stress reactions. wise, some people are born with a shy temperament and tend to be cautious and sensitive in new situations and prefer what's familiar. Most people who develop social phobia have always had a shy temperament. Not everyone with a shy temperament develops social phobia (in fact, most don't). It's the same with genes. But people who inherit these traits do have an increased chance of developing social phobia.
- Behaviors learned from role models (especially parents). A person's naturally shy temperament can be influenced by what he or she learns from role models. If parents or others react by overprotecting a child who is shy, the child won't have a chance to get used to new situations and new people. Over time, shyness can build into social phobia. Shy parents might also unintentionally set an example by avoiding certain social interactions. A shy child who watches this learns that socializing is uncomfortable, distressing, and something to avoid.
- Life events and experiences. If people born with a cautious nature have stressful experiences, it can make them even more cautious and shy. Feeing pressured to interact in ways they don't feel ready for, being criticized or humiliated, or having other fears and worries can make it more ly for a shy or fearful person to develop social anxiety. People who constantly receive critical or disapproving reactions may grow to expect that others will judge them negatively. Being teased or bullied will make people who are already shy ly to retreat into their shells even more. They'll be scared of making a mistake or disappointing someone, and will be more sensitive to criticism.
The good news is that the effect of these negative experiences can be turned around with some focused slow-but-steady effort. Fear can be learned. And it can also be unlearned, too.
Dealing With Social Phobia
People with social phobia can learn to manage fear, develop confidence and coping skills, and stop avoiding things that make them anxious. But it's not always easy. Overcoming social phobia means getting up the courage it takes to go beyond what's comfortable, little by little.
Here's who can support and guide people in overcoming social phobia:
- Therapists can help people recognize the physical sensations caused by fight–flight and teach them to interpret these sensations more accurately. Therapists can help people create a plan for facing social fears one by one, and help them build the skills and confidence to do it. This includes practicing new behaviors. Sometimes, but not always, medications that reduce anxiety are used as part of the treatment for social phobia.
- Family or friends are especially important for people who are dealing with social phobia. The right support from a few key people can help those with social phobia gather the courage to go outside their comfort zone and try something new. Putdowns, lectures, criticisms, and demands to change don't help — and just make a person feel bad. Having social phobia isn't a person's fault and isn't something anyone chooses. Instead, friends and family can encourage people with social phobia to pick a small goal to aim for, remind them to go for it, and be there when they might feel discouraged. Good friends and family are there to celebrate each small success along the way.
Overcoming Social Phobia
Dealing with social phobia takes patience, courage to face fears and try new things, and the willingness to practice. It takes a commitment to go forward rather than back away when feeling shy.
Little by little, someone who decides to deal with extreme shyness can learn to be more comfortable. Each small step forward helps build enough confidence to take the next small step. As shyness and fears begin to melt, confidence and positive feelings build. Pretty soon, the person is thinking less about what might feel uncomfortable and more about what might be fun.
Amal is a young man in his 20s. When he was a child, everyone thought he was very shy. Now that he’s in university, he’s having a hard time fitting in. He rarely joins class discussions, and he avoids talking to his classmates. He lives in constant fear of doing or saying the wrong thing.
He thinks that other people will judge him or laugh at him. When he does talk to others, he feels shaky and nauseous. Amal has always been a good student, but his grades are starting to slip.
His teachers notice that he doesn’t asks questions or participate—in fact, he’s been missing more and more classes as the school year goes on.
We can all feel nervous in social situations job interviews or when we’re giving presentations. But if you’re so scared of interacting with others that it affects your relationships with other people or it affects your work or school performance, you may have something called social anxiety disorder.
What is It?
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a mental illness. It belongs to a group of mental illnesses called anxiety disorders.
People with social anxiety disorder feel very nervous and uncomfortable in social situations meeting new people.
Or they might feel very anxious when they have to do something in front of other people, talking in a meeting. Some people feel very anxious in both situations.
People with social anxiety disorder often feel they will say or do the wrong thing. Or they might think that other people will look down on them and think poorly of them because they’re “strange” or “stupid.” It’s important to know that adults with social anxiety disorder recognize that they feel too anxious, but they may not be able to control it.
Some people may have a panic attack or feel some physical signs of anxiety when they’re facing a social situation. Common physical signs of anxiety include stomach aches, shallow breathing, sweating or feeling hot flashes, feeling your heart is racing, feeling tightness in your chest, feeling tense and feeling shaky.
Social anxiety disorder can have a very negative effect on your well-being and quality of life. The illness can cause a lot of problems in your relationships with partners, family and friends. It can also seriously affect your school or work life.
You may avoid certain careers or fields of study, avoid contributing your ideas, turn down promotions, drop school or take many days off because you feel so anxious. Some people with social anxiety disorder fear one or just a few specific social situations.
Others fear a wide range of social situations.
|It’s normal to feel a bit nervous or anxious when you have to give a speech or when you’re meeting people for the first time. But with social anxiety disorder, your anxiety is so intense that it affects many parts of your life. It might affect your school or work life, relationships, things you do for fun or your day-to-day life.These are some other signs you might have social anxiety disorder:|
If you agree with some or all of the above statements, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor.
Who Does It Affect?
Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common types of anxiety disorders, and one of the most common mental illnesses. About 8% of people will experience symptoms of social anxiety disorder at some point in their life. Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can last for a long time. Unfortunately, many people never seek help for social anxiety disorder.
There are some groups of people at higher risk of experiencing social anxiety disorder:
- Age—Social anxiety disorder often starts sometime between childhood and teenage years. The majority of people with social anxiety disorder say that their symptoms started before they were 18
- Women—Women are more ly to experience social anxiety disorder than men
- Other mental illnesses or substance use disorder—Many people with social anxiety disorder have other mental illness depression, panic disorder, bulimia nervosa (an eating disorder) and substance use disorders. However, social anxiety seems to appear before other mental illnesses.
|Young children usually don’t know that they are experiencing anxiety. They just know that they have stomach aches, headaches or other physical symptoms of anxiety. Children also know that they just don’t want to do certain activities. So children might express their anxiety by complaining about physical discomfort, avoiding social activities, refusing to go to school or acting out.|
What can I do about it?
There are a few different things you can do:
- Counselling—Many people with social anxiety disorder benefit from a form of counselling called cognitive-behavioural therapy or CBT. A mental health professional trained in CBT can help you work through the thoughts or beliefs and behaviours that lead to or maintain your social anxiety. CBT helps you cope with social anxiety by teaching you skills to build confidence in social situations. You can also learn how to interact with people and maintain relationships. CBT is usually a short-term treatment. You can get the most treatment by regularly practicing CBT skills.
- Exposure—Exposure (sometimes called desensitization) helps you “unlearn” anxiety associated with a situation or thing. With the guidance and support of a qualified professional, you gradually take small, planned steps towards a situation you fear until you no longer feel overwhelmed by that situation. It can be a very effective treatment for many different phobias, including social phobia. Exposure is an important part of CBT treatment for social anxiety.
- Medication—Anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants can be used in combination with counselling or exposure to reduce your body’s response to anxiety.
- Support groups—You are not alone. Anxiety disorder support groups in person or online are a great way to share your experiences and learn from the experiences of others.
- Self-help—There are some things you can do on your own to help keep you feeling better. Regular exercise, eating well, managing stress, spending time with friends and family, spirituality, and monitoring your use of alcohol and other drugs can help keep anxiety from getting worse. Talking to your doctor, asking questions, and feeling in charge of your own health are also very important. Always talk to your doctor about what you’re doing on your own.
Where do I go from here?
In addition to talking to your family doctor, check out the resources below for more information about social anxiety disorder:
Visit www.anxietybc.com or call 604-525-7566 for self-help information and community resources.
BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information
Visit www.heretohelp.bc.ca for info sheets and personal stories about social anxiety disorder. You’ll also find more information, tips and self-tests to help you understand many different mental health problems.
Resources available in many languages:
* If English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.
Call 811 or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca to access free, non-emergency health information for anyone in your family, including mental health information. Through 811, you can also speak to a registered nurse about symptoms you’re worried about, or a pharmacist about medication questions.
© 2013 | Back to top | PDF | More info sheets
Social Anxiety Test: 3-Minute Self-Assessment
This brief assessment is for people who experience anxiety in social situations. Take this quiz to determine if you meet the diagnostic criteria for social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
The questions listed below relate to life experiences common among people who have been diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder.
Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
How Accurate Is It?
This quiz is NOT a diagnostic tool. Mental health disorders can only be diagnosed by licensed healthcare professionals. If you’d to learn more about social anxiety disorder read Psycom’s guide to Social Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.
Psycom believes assessments can be a valuable first step toward getting treatment. All too often people stop short of seeking help fear their concerns aren’t legitimate or severe enough to warrant professional intervention.
How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Treated?
Social Anxiety Disorder is highly treatable often through therapy. More information about treatment is available in our social anxiety overview article.
Your privacy is important to us. All results are completely anonymous.
Social Anxiety FAQs
There is no medical test for social anxiety disorder.
A psychiatrist or other mental health professional can make a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder (otherwise known as social phobia) your own description of your symptoms, how they occur, and in what situations.
Your doctor will use criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to determine if your symptoms warrant a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider is your first point of call to assess whether you might meet the criteria to be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. Your doctor will do an assessment to determine if your symptoms are caused by any underlying physical health conditions. Your doctor may then refer you to a psychiatrist or a psychologist who specializes in diagnosing anxiety disorders.
In order to be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, you must have been experiencing the symptoms outlined in the DSM-5 for at least 6 months or more.
The DSM-5 diagnostic criteria also require ruling out other mental disorders such as panic disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, or autism spectrum disorder.
It may therefore take multiple sessions with a mental health professional before they can confidently make a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder.
The first step to overcoming social anxiety disorder is a formal diagnosis. Once a child is diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, the family may feel relieved that a specific treatment plan can now be put into place to ease the child’s symptoms. Children with social anxiety disorder are typically treated with either behavioral therapy or a combination of behavioral therapy and medication.
Only a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, can diagnose a mental health disorder social anxiety.
While you cannot self-diagnose, you can take steps to figure out if your symptoms are the result of normal shyness or if they could be something more.
Tools Psycom’s social anxiety disorder quiz are a useful first step to determine if you should seek help from a mental health professional.
Social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety. Social anxiety is more than just feeling shy.
People with social anxiety have an intense fear of situations where they could be watched, judged, embarrassed, or rejected by others.
The symptoms are so extreme that they interfere with the person’s daily routine and prevent them from taking part in ordinary activities.
Some events, emotions, or experiences may make it more ly for the symptoms of social anxiety to begin or worsen—these are known as triggers.
Some common triggers of social anxiety disorder include meeting new people, attending social events, making small talk, being watched while doing something, etc.
Social anxiety triggers can differ from person to person and so working with a mental health professional to identify what your triggers are and how you can react when faced with them can be incredibly helpful.
For most people, social anxiety disorder will not go away without treatment. It is very important to seek help from a mental health professional if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of social anxiety disorder.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is generally considered the most effective form of treatment for social anxiety.
CBT is a form of therapy that enables you to identify negative patterns of thought and behavior and change them.