Deutsch: Soziale Angststörung / Español: Trastorno de ansiedad social / Português: Transtorno de ansiedade social / Français: Trouble d'anxiété sociale / Italiano: Disturbo d'ansia sociale

Social anxiety disorder is a common mental health condition characterized by an intense and persistent fear of being watched, judged, or negatively evaluated in social or performance situations. This fear can significantly impact daily functioning and lead to avoidance of social interactions and activities.


Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, involves excessive self-consciousness and anxiety in everyday social situations. Individuals with this disorder fear that they will embarrass themselves or be scrutinized by others, leading to avoidance behaviors and significant distress. Common symptoms include intense fear or anxiety about social situations, physical symptoms such as sweating or trembling, and avoidance of social interactions.

The disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood, although it can occur at any age. Social anxiety disorder can interfere with daily life, affecting relationships, work, and academic performance. Without treatment, it can lead to the development of other mental health issues, such as depression or substance abuse.


Common symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Intense fear of social situations: Worrying about social interactions, public speaking, or meeting new people.
  • Physical symptoms: Experiencing sweating, trembling, blushing, rapid heartbeat, or nausea in social situations.
  • Avoidance behaviors: Avoiding social events, speaking in public, or initiating conversations.
  • Negative self-perception: Feeling overly self-conscious, fearing criticism, or believing others are constantly watching and judging.
  • Anticipatory anxiety: Excessive worry about upcoming social events or interactions.


The exact causes of social anxiety disorder are not fully understood, but several factors may contribute, including:

  • Genetics: A family history of anxiety disorders may increase the risk.
  • Brain structure: Abnormalities in brain regions involved in fear and anxiety, such as the amygdala, can play a role.
  • Environmental factors: Traumatic or negative social experiences, such as bullying or humiliation, can trigger the disorder.
  • Personality traits: Individuals who are naturally shy or introverted may be more prone to developing social anxiety disorder.


Diagnosis of social anxiety disorder typically involves a comprehensive assessment by a mental health professional. This may include:

  • Clinical interviews: Discussing symptoms, medical history, and social functioning.
  • Questionnaires: Using standardized tools to assess the severity of anxiety and its impact on daily life.
  • Criteria: Meeting the diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) for social anxiety disorder.


Treatment for social anxiety disorder often involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and self-help strategies. The most effective treatments include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): A structured form of therapy that helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with social anxiety. Techniques such as exposure therapy, where individuals gradually face feared social situations, are commonly used.
  • Medications: Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, can help reduce symptoms.
  • Social skills training: Teaching individuals effective communication and social interaction skills to build confidence in social situations.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practices such as mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises can help manage anxiety symptoms.

Application Areas

Social anxiety disorder is relevant in various areas within psychology and mental health, including:

  • Clinical Psychology: Providing diagnosis, therapy, and treatment for individuals with social anxiety disorder.
  • Educational Settings: Supporting students with social anxiety to improve their academic performance and social interactions.
  • Occupational Therapy: Assisting individuals in managing social anxiety in the workplace to enhance job performance and career development.
  • Community Programs: Offering support groups and social skills training to help individuals with social anxiety build confidence and social connections.

Well-Known Examples

  • Performance Anxiety: Fear of speaking or performing in front of an audience, such as giving a presentation or participating in a play.
  • Social Situations: Intense anxiety about attending social gatherings, such as parties, meetings, or group activities.
  • Interpersonal Interactions: Fear of everyday social interactions, such as making phone calls, initiating conversations, or meeting new people.

Treatment and Risks

Challenges and Potential Risks

  • Untreated social anxiety disorder: Can lead to chronic issues such as depression, substance abuse, and severe social isolation.
  • Medication side effects: Some medications used to treat social anxiety disorder can have side effects, such as drowsiness, weight gain, or sexual dysfunction.
  • Therapy challenges: Individuals may find it difficult to engage in exposure therapy due to the intense fear associated with social situations.

Symptoms, Therapy, and Healing

Common Symptoms

Individuals with social anxiety disorder often experience intense fear of social situations, physical symptoms like sweating or trembling, and avoidance behaviors that interfere with daily life.

Therapy Options

Effective therapy options include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, social skills training, and mindfulness techniques.

Healing Process

The healing process involves gradually facing and overcoming fears, developing coping strategies, and building social skills and confidence through therapy and support.

Similar Terms

  • Social Phobia
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Public Speaking Anxiety
  • Interpersonal Fear
  • Shyness


Social anxiety disorder is a prevalent mental health condition characterized by intense fear and avoidance of social situations due to concerns about being judged or embarrassed. It can significantly impact daily life and relationships but can be effectively managed with therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medications, and social skills training. Understanding and addressing social anxiety disorder is crucial for improving the quality of life and well-being of those affected.