Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is an experience of fear, apprehension or worry regarding social situations and being evaluated by others. People vary in how often they experience anxiety in this way or in which kinds of situations. Anxiety about public speaking, performance, or interviews is common.

Social anxiety disorder, also referred to clinically as social phobia, is a psychiatric anxiety disorder involving overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People experiencing social anxiety often have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Often the triggering social stimulus is a perceived or actual scrutiny by others. Their fear may be so severe that it significantly impairs their work, school, social life, and other activities. While many people experiencing social anxiety recognize that their fear of being around people may be excessive or unreasonable, they encounter considerable difficulty overcoming it. This differs from shyness, in that the person is functionally debilitated and avoids such anxiety provoking situations. At the same time, a person with social anxiety may only feel the fear during certain situations. For example, an actor or singer may feel fine on stage, but afraid of social situations in everyday life.

Social anxiety is often part of only a certain situation, such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating, or writing in front of others – or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people. Many people have the specific fear of public speaking, called glossophobia. In this case, the fear is of doing or saying something which may cause embarrassment. Approximately 13.3% of the general population will experience social phobia at some point in their lifetime according to the highest estimate; with the male to female ratio being 1.4:1.0, respectively. Physical symptoms often accompany social anxiety, and include blushing, profuse sweating (hyperhidrosis), trembling, nausea, and stammering. Panic attacks may also occur under intense fear and discomfort. An early diagnosis helps in minimizing the symptoms and the development of additional problems such as depression. Some sufferers may use alcohol or drugs to reduce fears and inhibitions at social events.

A person with the disorder may be treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Research has shown cognitive behavior therapy, whether individually or in a group, to be effective in treating social phobia. The cognitive and behavioral components seek to change thinking patterns and physical reactions to anxious situations. Prescribed medication includes a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Attention given to social anxiety disorder has significantly increased since 1999 with the approval and marketing of drugs for its treatment.

K12 Academics Social Anxiety Community: Click to join the Social Anxiety community discussions.

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