Social Anxiety Disorder/Social Phobia

Social anxiety is a marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be humiliating or embarrassing. In other words, social anxiety is the fear and anxiety of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people. It often creates feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression. If you usually become anxious in social situations, but feel fine when you are alone, then “social anxiety” may be the problem.


A specific social phobia would be the fear of speaking in front of groups, or speaking to authority figures; whereas generalized social anxiety indicates that the person is anxious, nervous, and uncomfortable in almost all (or the majority of) social situations.


People with social anxiety disorder usually experience significant emotional distress in the following situations:


  • Being introduced to other people

  • Being teased or criticized

  • Being the center of attention

  • Being watched while doing something

  • Meeting people in authority (“important people”)

  • Most social encounters, particularly with strangers

  • Making “small talk” at parties

  • Going around the room in a circle and having to say something


This list is certainly not a complete list of symptoms—other feelings may be associated with social anxiety as well.


The physiological manifestations that accompany social anxiety may include intense fear, racing heart, turning red or blushing, dry throat and mouth, trembling, swallowing with difficulty, and muscle twitches.