Anxiety Clinic

Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)

What is social phobia (social anxiety disorder)?

People with social anxiety disorder experience of significant anxiety in social or performance situations.  Individuals with social anxiety disorder are often concerned about being judged or evaluated by other people.  They may believe that they will behave in an inept or unappealing way in social situations that will lead to embarrassment.  Another common concern is that other people will notice signs of their anxiety such as blushing, trembling, sweating, or having a shaky voice.  Individuals with social phobia often avoid social situations in which they experience significant anxiety or else suffer through them with marked distress.

Commonly feared situations include:

  • Eating in restaurants
  • Interacting with co-workers
  • Speaking in public
  • Dating
  • Talking with authority figures like bosses or teachers
  • Job interviews
  • Participating in class or meetings
  • Joining in a group conversation
  • Situations that require self-disclosure or sharing personal opinions

What is the impact of social anxiety disorder?

People with social anxiety disorder are less likely than others to date or marry.  They may have few friends and describe feeling dissatisfied  with and not emotionally close in the relationships that they do have. They may not go as far in their education as their talent and money will allow because of the social demands involved in completing an education (class participation, speeches, crowded campuses). Similarly, jobs may be chosen because the social demands are perceived as manageable rather than because of interest. People with social anxiety disorder report missing more work and being less productive at work than others. In some cases, people with social anxiety disorder are unable to work at all due to their fears. Not surprisingly, individuals with social anxiety disorder typically report that their quality of life is unsatisfactory. Individuals with social anxiety disorder may become depressed due to the losses they experience as a result of their social anxiety. Some individuals also develop problems when alcohol or drugs are used to self-medicate social anxiety symptoms.

How common is social anxiety disorder?

Research suggests that as many at 13% of people suffer from social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, and it is the 3rd most common psychiatric disorder (National Comorbidity Survey).

What is the relationship between social anxiety disorder and avoidant personality disorder?

Both disorders involve concern about negative evaluation by other people.  There is considerable overlap in the symptoms of social anxiety disorder and avoidant personality disorder (and many people believe that they are actually two different ways of describing the same problems, with avoidant personality disorder describing a severe form of social anxiety disorder).  The treatments for both disorders are the same.