Social Anxiety Disorder (social phobia) is the third largest mental
health care problem in the world.
Latest government epidemiological data show social phobia affects over
7% of the population at any given time. The lifetime prevalence rate
(i.e., the chances of developing social anxiety disorder at any time
during the lifespan) stands at above 13%.
Definition: Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that
involve interaction with other people. Put another way, social anxiety
is the fear and anxiety of being judged and evaluated by other people.
If a person usually becomes anxious in social situations, but seems
fine when they are alone, then "social anxiety" may be the problem.
Perceptions: People with social anxiety are many times seen by others
as being shy, quiet, backward, withdrawn, inhibited, unfriendly,
nervous, aloof, and disinterested. People with social anxiety want to
be "normal" socially, they want to make friends and they want to be
involved and engaged in social interactions.
Having social anxiety prevents people from being able to do the things
they want, however.
Triggering Symptoms: People with social anxiety usually experience
significant distress in the following situations:
Being introduced to other people
Being teased or criticized
Being the center of attention
Social situations where the person exhibits excessive
Being watched or observed while doing something
Having to say something in a formal, public situation
Meeting people in authority ("important people/authority figures")
Feeling insecure and out of place in social situations ("I don't know
what to say.")
Embarrassing easily (e.g., blushing)
Meeting other peoples' eyes
Swallowing, writing, talking, making phone calls if in public
This list is not a complete list of symptoms -- other symptoms may be
associated with social anxiety as well.
Emotional Symptoms: The feelings that accompany social anxiety include
anxiety, intense fear, nervousness, automatic negative thinking
cycles, racing heart, blushing, excessive sweating, dry throat and
mouth, trembling, and muscle twitches.
Constant, intense anxiety is the most common feature.
Insight: People with social anxiety know that their anxiety is
irrational and does not make logical sense. Nevertheless, thoughts and
feelings of anxiety persist and show no signs of going away, without
Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety has been
markedly successful. Thousands of research studies now indicate that,
after CBT, people with social anxiety disorder report a changed life
-- one that is no longer controlled by fear and anxiety.
National Institutes of Mental Health-funded studies report a very high