Social anxiety disorder is the intense fear of social situations.
People with social anxiety disorder: Avoid interactions with other peopleAre extremely afraid of being judged negatively by othersFeel humiliated, embarrassed, and inadequate more easily than others
Social anxiety may be: Generalized to all social interactionsSpecific to certain social situations, such as public speaking
Social anxiety disorder is much more severe than shyness. It can interfere with work, school, or other situations, as well as cause physical symptoms.
Physical Reactions of Anxiety
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The exact cause is unknown. Possible causes include: Genetic factorsProblems with the regulation of chemicals in the brainPast emotional trauma in social situations
Social anxiety disorder is most common in adolescence and early adulthood. It is almost twice as common in women than in men. Other factors that may increase your chance of social anxiety disorder include: Family history of social anxiety
Other psychiatric disorders, such as
Symptoms may begin in any public situation such as: Being teased or criticizedBeing the center of attentionMeeting new peopleInteracting with authority figuresInteracting with members of the opposite sexEating, writing, or speaking in publicUsing public toilets
Symptoms during these social interactions may include: BlushingExcessive sweatingTremblingDry throat and mouthMuscle twitchesRapid heart beatLightheadness
You will be asked about your fears and symptoms. A physical exam may be done. You may be referred to a mental health specialist. A psychiatric evaluation may be done.
Treatments may include:
cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the therapist may:
Help you change your negative thought patterns and behaviors
Teach you techniques to help you control anxiety symptoms, such as deep breathing, visualization, and
meditationSuggest changes to your social environment to minimize stressGradually expose you to feared situations in a controlled environment
may also be part of your treatment.
The following medications may be used to help control symptoms: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants—to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depressionBeta-blockers—to stop the physical symptoms of panic and anxiety (has been used to relieve the performance anxiety that often occurs with social anxiety disorder)
Other medications may include: BenzodiazepinesAnticonvulsants
There are no guidelines to prevent social anxiety disorder. However, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications, such as: Substance abuseDepressionDifficulties at school, work, or in your personal life
Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
Updated December 23, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2016.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Adrian Preda, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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