Back

Social Anxiety Disorder

(Social Phobia)

Definition

Social anxiety disorder is the intense fear of social situations. People with social anxiety disorder:
Social anxiety may be:
Social anxiety disorder is much more severe than shyness. It can interfere with work, school, or other situations, as well as cause physical symptoms.
Physical Reactions of Anxiety
Physical reaction anxiety
© 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

The exact cause is unknown. Possible causes include:

Risk Factors

Social anxiety disorder is most common in adolescence and early adulthood. It is almost twice as common in women than in men. Other factors that may increase your chance of social anxiety disorder include:

Symptoms

Symptoms may begin in any public situation such as:
Symptoms during these social interactions may include:

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your fears and symptoms. A physical exam may be done. You may be referred to a mental health specialist. A psychiatric evaluation may be done.

Treatment

Treatments may include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

During cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the therapist may:
  • Help you change your negative thought patterns and behaviors
  • Teach you techniques to help you control anxiety symptoms, such as deep breathing, visualization, and meditation
  • Suggest changes to your social environment to minimize stress
  • Gradually expose you to feared situations in a controlled environment
A support group may also be part of your treatment.

Medication

The following medications may be used to help control symptoms:
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants—to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Beta-blockers—to stop the physical symptoms of panic and anxiety (has been used to relieve the performance anxiety that often occurs with social anxiety disorder)
Other medications may include:
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Anticonvulsants

Prevention

There are no guidelines to prevent social anxiety disorder. However, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications, such as:

RESOURCES

Anxiety and Depression Association of America http://www.adaa.org

Social Anxiety Association http://www.socialphobia.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Psychiatric Association http://www.cpa-apc.org

Canadian Psychological Association http://cpa.ca

References

Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273. Updated December 23, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2016.

Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 17, 2015. Accessed January 26, 2016.

Revision Information