Skip to main content

Social Anxiety Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder causes you to worry or be afraid in all or most social situations. Examples include meeting new people, going on a date, or speaking and performing in front of people. Social anxiety disorder is also called social phobia.

What increases my risk for social anxiety disorder?

The following may increase your risk for social anxiety disorder:

  • Trouble with social skills
  • Family or work stress
  • A family history of an anxiety disorder
  • Being bullied or teased as a child

What are the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder can cause problems with work, school, or other daily activities. You may have anxiety in any situation where you may have contact with people. It is hard for you to control your anxiety and feel calm in these situations. The fear may be present days or weeks before the situation occurs. You may have any of the following before or during contact with other people:

  • Blushing, sweating, shaking, or trembling
  • Muscle tenseness, nausea, or a pounding heart
  • Shaky voice or dry mouth
  • Worrying that you will be embarrassed or shamed
  • Worrying that others will reject you
  • Worrying that you will offend others
  • Staying away from social situations
  • Trouble making friends or keeping friends

What do I need to tell my healthcare provider about my anxiety?

Tell your healthcare provider when your symptoms began and what triggers them. Tell your provider if anxiety affects your daily activities. Your provider will also ask about your medical history and if you have family members with a similar condition. Tell your provider about your past and present alcohol, nicotine, or drug use.

What can I do to manage anxiety?

You may get medicines to help you feel calm and relaxed, and to decrease your symptoms. Medicines are usually given together with therapy or other treatments. The following can help you manage anxiety:

  • Talk to someone about your anxiety. Your healthcare provider may suggest counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you understand and change how you react to events. It can also help you understand what triggers your symptoms. You might feel more comfortable talking with a friend or family member about your anxiety. Choose someone you know will be supportive and encouraging. You can also join a support group. A support group lets you talk with others who have social anxiety disorder.
  • Find ways to relax. Activities such as yoga, meditation, or listening to music can help you relax. It may help to do these activities before a social event or speech.
  • Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing can help you relax when you feel anxious. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths several times a day, or before a social situation. Slowly breathe in through your nose. Pause, then slowly breathe out through your mouth. Try to breathe out longer than you breathed in.
  • Create a regular sleep routine. Regular sleep can help you feel calmer during the day. Go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. Do not watch television or use the computer right before bed. Your room should be comfortable, dark, and quiet.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, whole-grain breads, and cooked beans. Healthy foods can help you feel less anxious and have more energy.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can increase your energy level. Exercise may also lift your mood and help you sleep better. Your healthcare provider can help you create an exercise plan.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can increase anxiety. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not have caffeine. Caffeine can make your symptoms worse. Do not have foods or drinks that are meant to increase your energy level.
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. Ask your healthcare provider if alcohol is safe for you. Also ask how much is safe. You may not be able to drink alcohol if you take certain anxiety or depression medicines.
  • Do not use drugs. Drugs can make your anxiety worse. It can also make anxiety hard to manage. Talk to your healthcare provider if you use drugs and want help to quit.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have chest pain, tightness, or heaviness that may spread to your shoulders, arms, jaw, neck, or back.
  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms get worse or do not get better with treatment.
  • You have new symptoms since your last visit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.