Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder,
sometimes referred to as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that
causes extreme fear in social settings. People with this disorder have trouble
talking to people, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings. They
fear being judged or scrutinized by others. They may understand that their
fears are irrational or unreasonable, but feel powerless to overcome them.
Social anxiety is different from shyness. Shyness is usually
short-term and doesn’t disrupt one’s life. Social anxiety is persistent and
debilitating. It can affect one’s ability to:
- attend school
- develop close relationships with people outside
of their family
According to the Anxiety and Depression
Association of America (ADAA) approximately 15 million American adults have
social anxiety disorder. Symptoms of this disorder may start around the age of
of Social Anxiety Disorder
Social interaction may cause the following physical symptoms:
- excessive sweating
- trembling or shaking
- difficulty speaking
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- rapid heart rate
Psychological symptoms may include:
- worrying intensely about social situations
- worrying for days or weeks before an event
- avoiding social situations or trying to blend
into the background if you must attend
- worrying about embarrassing yourself in a social
- worrying that other people will notice you are
stressed or nervous
- needing alcohol to face a social situation
- missing school or work because of anxiety
It is normal to sometimes feel anxious. However, when you have
social phobia, you have a constant fear of being judged by others or humiliated
in front of them. You may avoid all social situations, including:
- asking a question
- job interviews
- using public restrooms
- talking on the phone
- eating in public
Symptoms of social anxiety may not occur in all situations. You
can have limited or selective anxiety. For example, symptoms may only occur
when you’re eating in front of people or talking to strangers. Symptoms can
occur in all social settings if you have an extreme case.
Causes Social Anxiety Disorder?
The exact cause of social phobia is unknown. However, current
research supports the idea that it is caused by a combination of environmental
factors and genetics. Negative experiences also may contribute to this
- family conflict
- sexual abuse
Physical abnormalities such as a serotonin imbalance may
contribute to this condition. Serotonin is
a chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood. An overactive amygdala (a structure in the
brain that controls fear response and feelings or thoughts of anxiety) may also
cause these disorders.
Anxiety disorders can run in families. However, researchers
aren’t sure if they’re actually linked to genetic factors. For example, a child
might develop an anxiety disorder by learning the behavior of one of their
parents who has an anxiety disorder. Children can also develop anxiety
disorders as a result of being raised in controlling or overprotective
Social Anxiety Disorder
There is no medical test to check for social anxiety disorder.
Your healthcare provider will diagnose social phobia from a description of your
symptoms. They can also diagnose social phobia after examining certain
During your appointment, your healthcare provider will ask you to
explain your symptoms. They will also ask you to talk about situations that
cause your symptoms. The criteria for social anxiety disorder includes:
- a constant fear of social situations due to fear
of humiliation or embarrassment
- feeling anxious or panicky before a social
- a realization that your fears are unreasonable
- anxiety that disrupts daily living
for Social Anxiety Disorder
Several types of treatment are available for social anxiety
disorder. Treatment results differ from person to person. Some people only need
one type of treatment. However, others may require more than one. Your healthcare
provider may refer you to a mental health provider for treatment. Sometimes,
primary care providers may suggest medication to treat symptoms.
Treatment options for social anxiety disorder include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
This therapy helps you learn how to
control anxiety through relaxation and breathing, and how to replace negative
thoughts with positive ones.
This type of therapy helps you
gradually face social situations, rather than avoiding them.
This therapy helps you learn social
skills and techniques to interact with people in social settings. Participating
in group therapy with others who have the same fears may make you feel less
alone. It will give you a chance to practice your new skills through role-playing.
At-home treatments include:
Foods such as coffee, chocolate, and
soda are stimulants and may increase anxiety.
Getting plenty of sleep
Getting at least eight hours of
sleep per night is recommended. Lack of
sleep can increase anxiety and worsen symptoms of social phobia.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications that treat
anxiety and depression if your condition doesn’t improve with therapy and
lifestyle changes. These medications do not cure social anxiety disorder.
However, they can improve your symptoms and help you function in your daily
life. It can take up to three months for medication to improve your symptoms.
Medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to
treat social anxiety disorder include Paxil,
XR. Your healthcare provider may start you with a low dose of medication
and gradually increase your prescription to avoid side effects.
Common side effects of these medications include:
- insomnia (sleeplessness)
- weight gain
- upset stomach
- lack of sexual desire
Talk to your health care provider about the benefits and risks to
decide which treatment is right for you.
for Social Anxiety Disorder
According to the ADAA, about 36 percent of people
with social anxiety don’t speak to a healthcare provider until they have had
symptoms for at least 10 years.
People with social phobia may rely on drugs and alcohol to cope
with anxiety triggered by social interaction. Left untreated, social phobia can
lead to other high-risk behaviors, including:
- alcohol and drug abuse
- thoughts of suicide
The outlook for social anxiety is good with treatment. Therapy,
lifestyle changes, and medication can help many people cope with their anxiety
and function in social situations.
Social phobia doesn’t have to control your life. Although it may
take weeks or months, psychotherapy and/or medication can help you begin to
feel calmer and more confident in social situations.
Keep your fears under control by:
- recognizing the triggers that cause you to start
feeling nervous or out of control
- practicing relaxation and breathing techniques
- taking your medication as directed