Social Anxiety & Social Phobia 

Social anxiety is the most common type of anxiety there is.  We all want to be accepted, respected and have a sense of belonging.  Most of us worry about making a good impression and being liked.  However, with social anxiety this fear is blown out of proportion.  People are overly concerned about doing or saying something that could be embarrassing and being judged and criticized by others.  You may not want to be the center of attention, or worry that others may notice and judge you for showing signs of anxiety like blushing or sweating.

Social anxiety can interfere with developing friend or romantic relationships, completing school, and applying for jobs or promotions.  You may have it in specific situations, like performing in front of a group or public speaking, or it may be generalized to starting conversations with people or going to social events.  It usually develops in childhood or adolescence and continues into adulthood.

Typical situations that cause anxiety are:

  • Starting or maintaining a conversation
  • Appearing nervous to others or being observed blushing, sweating or shaking.
  • Using a public restroom
  • Participating in small groups
  • Eating in front of others
  • Giving a presentation
  • Asking someone out
  • Being observed by others
  • Being the center of attention

Children and teens with social anxiety may avoid asking the teacher for help, answering questions in class, going to P.E., having their picture taken and oral presentations.  Very young children may have what is called selective mutism, where they avoid talking in school and to people they are unfamiliar with, but have no problems speaking at home.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is very effective in overcoming shyness and social anxiety.  Using gradual exposure to feared situations and changing underlying beliefs about oneself, social anxiety can be mastered.

Listen to Jennifer Shannon’s podcast for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America on Teen Social Anxiety Disorder.

You can take the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale to self-assess your own social anxiety.


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