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Neurosciences and Behavioral Health Center

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is the intense fear of social situations. People with social anxiety disorder:

  • Avoid interactions with other people
  • Are extremely afraid of being judged negatively by others
  • Feel humiliated, embarrassed and inadequate more easily than others

Social anxiety may be:

  • Generalized to all social interactions
  • Specific to certain social situations, such as public speaking

Social anxiety disorder is much more severe than shyness. It can interfere with work, school or other situations, as well as cause physical symptoms.

Risk Factors

Social anxiety disorder is most common in adolescence and early adulthood. Factors that increase your chance for social anxiety disorder include:

  • Family history of social anxiety
  • Other psychiatric disorders (such as anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, depression or drug abuse)


Symptoms may begin in any public situation such as:

  • Being teased or criticized
  • Being the center of attention
  • Meeting new people
  • Interacting with authority figures
  • Interacting with members of the opposite sex
  • Eating, writing, or speaking in public
  • Using public toilets

Symptoms during these social interactions may include:

  • Blushing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling
  • Dry throat and mouth
  • Muscle twitches
  • Intense anxiety
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Lightheadness (feeling like you are going to faint)


Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

During cognitive-behavioral therapy, a therapist can:

  • Help you change your negative thought patterns and behaviors
  • Teach you techniques to help you control anxiety symptoms (e.g., deep breathing, visualization, meditation)
  • Suggest changes to your social environment to minimize stress
  • Gradually expose you to feared situations in a controlled environment


Your doctor may recommend medication to help relieve symptoms of anxiety or depression or stop the physical symptoms of panic and anxiety.


Call 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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