Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)

Other names: Phobia, social, Social anxiety disorder


Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a mental health condition characterized by significant anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment in everyday social interactions due to the fear of being scrutinized or judged by others. Treatment options such as psychological counseling, medication, and coping skills training can help individuals improve their confidence and ability to engage with others.


Symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include persistent fear of judgment, worrying about embarrassing oneself, avoidance of certain situations, intense fear of interacting with strangers, and physical symptoms like fast heartbeat and upset stomach. Children with social anxiety may exhibit symptoms such as crying, tantrums, or refusal to speak in social settings.


Social anxiety disorder is believed to stem from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Inherited traits, brain structure (amygdala), and learned behavior are thought to contribute to the development of this condition.


Factors that may increase the risk of developing social anxiety disorder include a family history of the condition, negative life experiences like bullying or rejection, temperament traits like shyness, and new social or work demands that trigger anxiety symptoms.


Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can significantly impact various aspects of life, leading to low self-esteem, poor social relationships, substance abuse issues, and even suicidal thoughts or attempts. It can also coexist with other mental health disorders.


Before seeking help for social anxiety disorder, it's important to prepare for your appointment by noting down your symptoms, personal information, medical history, medications you're taking, and any questions you have for your healthcare provider. Asking about the possible causes of your symptoms and the available treatments is crucial during your visit.


Diagnosing social anxiety disorder involves a physical exam to rule out other potential causes and psychological questionnaires to assess symptoms. The criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) are often used for diagnosis.


Treatment options for social anxiety disorder include psychotherapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy) and medications like SSRIs or SNRIs. Lifestyle changes like avoiding unhealthy substances and seeking early intervention can also help manage symptoms effectively.


Some herbal remedies like kava, valerian, passionflower, and theanine have been studied for anxiety treatment. However, more research is needed to understand their full benefits and risks. Consult with your doctor before trying any alternative treatments.


Engaging with friends and family members, joining support groups or skill-building organizations, pursuing hobbies, and reminding yourself of your ability to overcome anxious moments can be helpful in managing social anxiety symptoms.


  1. What is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition characterized by significant anxiety in everyday social interactions due to fear of judgment.

  1. What are some emotional symptoms of social anxiety disorder?

Emotional symptoms may include fear of being judged or embarrassed.

  1. How can family history affect the risk of developing social anxiety disorder?

Having a biological relative with the condition increases the likelihood of developing it.

  1. What are some complications of untreated social anxiety disorder?

Complications may include low self-esteem, substance abuse issues, and difficulty in relationships.

  1. What are some common treatments for social anxiety disorder?

Treatments may include psychotherapy and medications like SSRIs.

  1. How can lifestyle changes help manage social anxiety symptoms?

Avoiding unhealthy substances and seeking early intervention can reduce symptom impact.

  1. Are there alternative herbal remedies for treating social anxiety disorder?

Some herbal remedies like kava and valerian have been studied but require further research.

  1. How can one prepare for a medical appointment regarding social anxiety?

By noting down symptoms, personal information, medical history, medications taken, and questions for the healthcare provider.

  1. What role does cognitive behavioral therapy play in treating social anxiety disorder?

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps individuals recognize negative thoughts and develop coping skills for social situations.

  1. What are some coping strategies for managing social anxiety symptoms?

Coping methods may include reaching out to support groups or engaging in pleasurable activities like hobbies.