Social Anxiety Disorder (social phobia) is the third largest mental health care problem in the world.
Latest government epidemiological data show social anxiety affects over 7% of the population at any given time. The lifetime prevalence rate (i.e., the chances of developing social anxiety disorder at any time during the lifespan) stands at above 13%.
Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. Put another way, social anxiety is the fear and anxiety of being judged and evaluated by other people. If a person usually becomes anxious in social situations, but seems fine when they are alone, then “social anxiety” may be the problem.
People with social anxiety are many times seen by others as being shy, quiet, backward, withdrawn, inhibited, unfriendly, nervous, aloof, and disinterested. People with social anxiety want to be “normal” socially, they want to make friends and they want to be involved and engaged in social interactions.
Having social anxiety prevents people from being able to do the things they want to do. People with social anxiety want to be friendly, open, and sociable. It is fear (anxiety) that holds them back from participating.
Social anxiety is a fully treatable condition and can be overcome with work and patience.
People with social anxiety usually experience significant distress in the following situations:
Being introduced to other people
Being teased or criticized
Being the center of attention
Being watched or observed while doing something
Having to say something in a formal, public situation
Meeting people in authority (“important people/authority figures”)
Feeling insecure and out of place in social situations (“I don’t know what to say.”)
Embarrassing easily (e.g., blushing, shaking)
Meeting other peoples’ eyes
Swallowing, writing, talking, making phone calls if in public
This list is not a complete list of symptoms — other symptoms may be associated with social anxiety as well.
The feelings that accompany social anxiety include anxiety, intense fear, nervousness, automatic negative thinking cycles, racing heart, blushing, excessive sweating, dry throat and mouth, trembling, and muscle twitches.
Constant, intense anxiety (fear) is the most common feature.
People with social anxiety know that their anxiety is irrational and does not make logical sense. Nevertheless, thoughts and feelings of anxiety persist and show no signs of going away, without appropriate treatment.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety has been markedly successful. Thousands of research studies now indicate that, after CBT, people with social anxiety disorder report a changed life — one that is no longer controlled by fear and anxiety. Appropriate therapy is markedly successful in changing people’s thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behavior.