Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as social phobia, interferes with a person’s ability or willingness to be in public places for fear of judgment, embarrassment or a feeling of anxiety/panic at the thought of interacting with others. While a certain level of anxiety is natural when in a social setting, people who suffer with social phobia often worry to the point of obsession, having a significant negative impact on their life and/or their relationships. As a small example, they may be afraid to eat in front of others, preventing them from meeting friends at a restaurant.  With children, the fear is expressed in a setting with other children of a similar age (peers).

The DSM-5 (2013)  made minor changes in the definition of social anxiety disorder, noting the definitional change from “the duration is at least 6 months” to “the fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting 6 or more months.” While social anxiety disorder can be partially tied to genetics, researchers are evaluating a number of other potential factors that include environmental, stress-related and anatomical elements. Affecting nearly 15 million Americans,* there are numerous signs that someone may be suffering with social anxiety disorder, such as having a hard time talking to people, being overly self-conscious, being afraid of being judged by others, having difficulty making or keeping good friends, being painfully shy around others, or avoiding social situations altogether. It is difficult to predict how long someone will suffer symptoms of social anxiety because the condition can last a very short period or conversely, persist for many years or a lifetime.

Regarding diagnosing social anxiety disorder, it usually begins during one’s youth. It can be specific to one situation or general to most experiences. It can be accompanied by other anxiety disorders, or depression, or substance abuse as a way to help calm the anxiety.*  It is often treated with some combination of medication and psychotherapy. Therapists may be able to help patients to have healthier reactions and behaviors in social situations through “talk” therapy such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). When needed, some of the medications that may be prescribed include anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs. A specific type of antidepressant called MAOIs has been found to be especially helpful in treating social anxiety disorder.

To learn more, explore our site to find additional information including resources for treatment and articles on coping with social anxiety disorder.

* National Institute of Mental Health

The above summary by WebPsychology.