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Social Anxiety Disorder

What is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is a condition that causes you to feel anxious in social situations. It is also called social phobia. You may fear that people are watching or judging you. The fear can cause problems with work, school, or other daily activities.

What causes social anxiety disorder?

The cause is not known. Signs and symptoms may begin between the ages of 14 and 16 years. Events may have occurred during these years that continue to cause you anxiety as an adult. Your risk also increases if you have a chemistry imbalance or you were raised around others with social anxiety.

What are the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder?

  • Blushing, sweating, shaking, trembling, muscle tenseness, or pounding heart

  • Shaky voice or dry mouth

  • Extreme fear of situations that involve meeting or performing for people

  • Extreme fear that you will be embarrassed or shamed

  • Anxiety or panic when you are about to be in a social situation

  • Anxiety that seems like overreacting to others

  • Desire to stay away from social situations

What are the types of social anxiety disorder?

  • Non-generalized: Your fear is limited to 1 or 2 situations, such as public speaking or performing.

  • Generalized: Your fear is present in almost all situations where you may have contact with people. The fear may be present days or weeks before the situation occurs. Simply thinking about a coming event may cause anxiety symptoms.

How is social anxiety disorder diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and when they began. He will ask what triggers your panic and if fear limits your daily activities. He will also ask about your medical history and if any family members have a similar condition. He may ask about your past and present alcohol or drug use.

How is social anxiety disorder treated?

  • Psychosocial therapy:

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy: You learn to face the feared object or situation slowly and carefully. You also learn to control the mental and physical reactions of fear.

    • Psychotherapy: This is also called talk therapy. You may meet with a therapist alone, with your family, or in a group setting. You learn how to ask for what you need, set limits, and say no.

  • Medicine:

    • Antianxiety medicine: This medicine may be given to decrease anxiety and help you feel calm and relaxed.

    • Antidepressants: These relieve the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Other behavior problems may also be treated with antidepressants.

    • Beta-blockers: These relieve performance anxiety.

    • Sedative medicine: These help you stay calm and relaxed.

What are the risks of social anxiety disorder?

Untreated, social anxiety disorder may become a long-term condition. This disorder may also cause other problems, such as alcohol and substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, and suicide. Social anxiety disorder treatment is more difficult if these problems are present.

Where can I find more information?

  • Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA)
    8730 Georgia Avenue, Suite 600
    Silver Spring , MD 20910
    Phone: 1- 240 - 485-1001
    Web Address:
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have new symptoms since your last visit.

  • Your symptoms get worse or do not get better with treatment.

  • You have problems that you think may be caused by the medicine you are taking.

  • Your anxiety makes you unable to work or to care for yourself or your family.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have chest pain, tightness, or pressure that may spread to your shoulders, arms, jaw, neck, or back.

  • You feel like fainting or are lightheaded or too dizzy to stand up.

  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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