Social anxiety disorder is intense fear of social situations. It can lead to avoiding other people or situations.
Physical Reactions of Anxiety
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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:
- Family history of anxiety or mood disorders
Other mental health problems, such as:
depression, or substance abuse
- Being single, separated, or widowed
- Childhood stress
- Parenting that is too protective or harsh
- Long term illness
- Nervousness in new situations
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
- 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.
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