Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is intense fear of social situations. It can lead to avoiding other people or situations.
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The exact cause is unknown. Possible causes are:
- Painful social experiences
Social anxiety disorder often starts in teens and young adults. It is more common in women than in men. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Symptoms are intense fear of being judged by others. They may happen when a person is:
- The center of attention
- Meeting new people
- Talking to authorities—such as bosses, teachers, or policemen
- Talking to the opposite sex
- Eating, writing, or speaking in public
- Using public toilets
Physical symptoms of anxiety occur, such as:
- Trembling or twitching
- Dry throat and mouth
- Fast heartbeat or lightheadedness
The doctor will ask about your fears and symptoms. A physical exam may be done. You may need to see a mental health specialist. A mental health assessment may be done.
The goal is to ease symptoms. Other mental health problems may also need to be treated. Options may be:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy —to change negative thoughts and behaviors
- Relaxation skills—such as deep breathing and meditation
- A support group
- Lifestyle changes—such as healthy eating, daily exercise, and avoiding substances
Medicines, such as:
- SSRIs, SNRIs, or other antidepressants—to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Benzodiazepines—to calm the nervous system
- Some nerve and seizure medicines
There are no guidelines to prevent social anxiety disorder.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Mental Health America
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Psychological Association
Leichsenring F, Leweke F. Social anxiety disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017;376(23):2255-2264.
Social anxiety disorder. Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder. Accessed March 9, 2021.
Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/social-anxiety-disorder . Accessed March 9, 2021.
Social phobia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/anxiety-and-stressor-related-disorders/social-phobia. Accessed March 9, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 03/09/2021