What Is Social Anxiety? - Treatment & Symptoms

Instructor: Melissa Doman

Melissa has a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and has taught undergraduate level psychology and lifestyle wellness community courses.

Have you ever felt very nervous in social situations when you're around a lot of people? You may have the thought, 'I'm scared of what they're thinking about me!' People who struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder often speak these words.

fear of judgment


Social Anxiety Disorder, also referred to as social phobia, is best described as having a strong fear of social situations. This anxiety disorder is extremely prevalent and, unfortunately, many people suffer from it throughout the world. When someone struggles with Social Anxiety Disorder, the basis for this irrational fear is that the person is very worried about the evaluation other people are placing on him or her. Usually these feelings are triggered when this person is around new people with whom they are unfamiliar or uncomfortable.

This anxiety disorder can appear in someone of any age and can start for a variety of reasons. Whether it's a social situation someone was in when he or she was younger and he or she was mercilessly teased by a group of peers, or a traumatic event happening in someone's life that he or she is worried people will find out about, Social Anxiety Disorder can develop from a variety of reasons.

Additional causes that can spark this disorder can come from:

  • Genetic predisposition from previous family generations
  • Substance abuse (specifically stimulants)
  • Other preexisting mental health conditions
  • Holding negative beliefs about yourself


While symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder appear differently in many people, here are some of the hallmark signs of it:

  • A persistent fear of social situations in groups
  • Rapid heartbeat and profuse sweating
  • Feelings of irritability and skittishness
  • Obsessive, repetitive thoughts about the fear of being judged
  • Fear of situations where you will be judged by others
  • Thoughts about being in a social situation create anxiety
  • Panic attacks in social situations
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Constant self-critical thoughts and low self-esteem that lead to self-defeating behavior
  • Catastrophic thinking (i.e. expecting the worst to occur)
  • Muscle tension

Also, while it not guaranteed, usually if someone has Social Anxiety Disorder - it happens concurrently with other mental health issues (depression, trauma, addiction, adjustment issues, etc).

Those who have Social Anxiety Disorder and leave it untreated often find that it heavily impacts their lives. With the symptoms mentioned above, unfortunately, people who do not address this issue often spend a lot of time in isolation, not wanting to experience the stress of being around other people. Ultimately, this can affect their romantic relationships, friendships, or even family dynamics.

anxiety cycle

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