People with social anxiety disorder worry about embarrassing themselves in front of other people. Fears may be so serious that they can interfere with everyday activities. It may be very difficult for people with this disorder to interact with others. In some people, fear of social interaction may cause absences from school or work.
Common fears may include:
This may accompany a belief that people are watching you and waiting for you to make a mistake. Anxiety can occur when on the phone, signing a check at the store, or using a public restroom. If you have social anxiety disorder, you worry about some events for weeks in advance. You may do anything to stay away from the situation.
Social anxiety disorder can be limited to only one type of situation, such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others. In its most severe form, you may experience symptoms almost anytime you are around other people.
Social anxiety disorder is common, affecting about 15 million Americans. It is equally common in men and women. The disorder typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and rarely develops after age 25.
The exact cause of social anxiety disorder is unknown. Possible causes include genetic factors, problems with regulation of chemicals in the brain, an imbalance of neurotransmitters or brain hormones, and past emotional trauma in social situations.
What are the risk factors for social anxiety disorder?
What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder?
How is social anxiety disorder diagnosed?
How can I reduce my risk of social anxiety disorder?
What are the treatments for social anxiety disorder?
Are there screening tests for social anxiety disorder?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
What is it like to live with social anxiety disorder?
Where can I get more information about social anxiety disorder?
Fact & statistics. Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics. Updated September 2014. Accessed December 23, 2015.
Schneier FR. Clinical practice. Social anxiety disorder. N Engl J Med. 2006;355(10):1029-1036.
Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115906/Social-anxiety-disorder. Updated July 12, 2016. Accessed October 5, 2016.
Social phobia (social anxiety disorder). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/social-phobia-social-anxiety-disorder/index.shtml. Accessed December 23, 2015.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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