Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Social Anxiety Disorder

(Social Phobia)


Social anxiety disorder is intense fear of social situations. It can lead to avoiding other people or situations.

Physical Reactions of Anxiety.

Physical reaction anxietyhttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=74207420BN00073.jpgBN00073.jpgNULLjpgBN00073.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\BN00073.jpgNULL55NULL2008-12-032634037420_11545© 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The exact cause is unknown. Possible causes are:

  • Genetics
  • Painful social experiences

Risk Factors

Social anxiety disorder often starts in teens and young adults. It is more common in women than in men. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Family history of anxiety or mood disorders
  • Other mental health problems, such as: anxiety , bipolar disorder , depression , or substance abuse
  • Being single, separated, or widowed
  • Childhood stress
  • Parenting that is too protective or harsh
  • Long term illness
  • Nervousness in new situations


Symptoms are intense fear of being judged by others. They may happen when a person is:

  • The center of attention
  • Meeting new people
  • Talking to authorities—such as bosses, teachers, or policemen
  • Talking to the opposite sex
  • Eating, writing, or speaking in public
  • Using public toilets

Physical symptoms of anxiety occur, such as:

  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or twitching
  • Dry throat and mouth
  • Fast heartbeat or lightheadedness


The doctor will ask about your fears and symptoms. A physical exam may be done. You may need to see a mental health specialist. A mental health assessment may be done.


The goal is to ease symptoms. Other mental health problems may also need to be treated. Options may be:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy —to change negative thoughts and behaviors
  • Relaxation skills—such as deep breathing and meditation
  • A support group
  • Lifestyle changes—such as healthy eating, daily exercise, and avoiding substances
  • Medicines, such as:
    • SSRIs, SNRIs, or other antidepressants—to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression
    • Benzodiazepines—to calm the nervous system
    • Some nerve and seizure medicines


There are no guidelines to prevent social anxiety disorder.





  • Leichsenring F, Leweke F. Social anxiety disorder. N Engl J Med. 2017;376(23):2255-2264.
  • Social anxiety disorder. Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder. Accessed March 9, 2021.
  • Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/social-anxiety-disorder . Accessed March 9, 2021.
  • Social phobia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/anxiety-and-stressor-related-disorders/social-phobia. Accessed March 9, 2021.


  • Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.