Social Anxiety Disorder

Key Facts
  • People who have Social Anxiety Disorder typically experience anxiety and panic in certain social situations which is different from ordinary shyness.
  • There is help for people who have Social Anxiety Disorder. Talk to your primary care provider or counselor about your feelings.
  • Esta guía en Español
  • Young men's version of this guide


What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, is a mental health condition. It usually begins in the early teen years. People with Social Anxiety Disorder feel extremely uncomfortable around others whom they don’t know well. They may feel very uneasy when talking with others, asking questions, going into a store or ordering in a restaurant. The fear is extreme and is not the same ordinary shyness that many people sometimes feel.

What are the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder?

People with this disorder are afraid that others will judge them in a negative way and will lead to extreme embarrassment or rejection. Here are some possible symptoms:

  • Anxiety or panic when interacting with others in social situations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Blushing
  • Trouble talking easily
  • Intense fear
  • Avoidance of situations where they have to talk with others or where they think others will notice them
  • Extreme fear that interferes with other aspects of their lives, such as making friends, going to parties, attending or participating in school or work

Who gets Social Anxiety Disorder?

Anyone can be diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. It is not uncommon for people with Social Anxiety Disorder to have other fears. Other risk factors include: a family history of anxiety, shyness, being teased or bulled, or having a medical or physical condition that is noticeable to others.

What is the treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder?

There is help for people who are diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. Unfortunately, many people wait far too long (average of 10-15 years) before seeking help. The sooner you get help, the more likely that your symptoms will improve. The most common treatments for Social Anxiety Disorder are psychotherapy and medication. There are several kinds of therapy that can be useful. Probably the best known for the treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In this form of therapy, the therapist and patient role play various situations that the patient finds scary or uncomfortable. Practicing how to handle fearful situations slowly over time helps a person to face and manage their symptoms.

Some people may try to make themselves more comfortable in social situations by using alcohol or drugs. This is not a good idea because it increases the chances of using poor judgment about social interactions and safety.

I think I may have social anxiety. Is there anything I can do to help myself?

First, it’s important to talk to your health care provider (HCP) about how you are feeling.

Here are some ways to help yourself feel more comfortable in social situations:

  • Take good care of yourself physically by getting enough sleep and eating nutritious foods.
  • Getting regular exercise is also important.
  • Find activities you enjoy. If you can be with other people doing things you enjoy and have in common, that will naturally give you something to talk to them about.
  • Practice with small interactions such as buying a magazine or a snack. Try asking a question of a store employee such as where to find a product in the store. When you do these things often, they are likely to become less scary.
Social Anxiety Disorder can interfere with your daily life and social relationships. Instead of avoiding uncomfortable situations, seek guidance from a mental health professional to help you build confidence and overcome your fears.