What Is Social Anxiety?

What Is Social Anxiety?

Do you often feel nervous or uncomfortable around other people? Maybe you feel like you’re being judged or evaluated. Or you just can’t seem to relax? If so, you’re not alone. More than 15 million U.S. adults live with social anxiety disorder (SAD), making it one of the most common anxiety disorders in the country. But what exactly is social anxiety, and what can you do about it? Let’s take a closer look. 

What Is Social Anxiety?

As the name suggests, social anxiety is a disorder that causes fear of social situations. Social anxiety is more than just being a little shy or feeling nervous in social situations. It’s a chronic mental illness that can cause crippling fear and discomfort in social situations.

People with social anxiety tend to worry excessively about being judged, embarrassed, or rejected by others. As a result, they may go out of their way to avoid social interactions. And if or when they do go out into social situations, they may spend the entire time feeling anxious and uncomfortable. 

Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder 

If you have social anxiety disorder, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of extreme fear or dread in social situations 
  • Physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, or nausea 
  • Looking for excuses to leave or avoid social situations 
  • Spending excessive time preparing for or worrying about upcoming social interactions
  • Intense self-consciousness or feeling like everyone is watching you 
  • Difficulty making eye contact or initiating conversation
  • Fear of being rejected by others or embarrassed in public 
  • Difficulty making or keeping friends 

What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder? 

Social anxiety disorder is thought to be caused by negative early life experiences, such as being bullied, humiliated, or ridiculed. It may also be a result of genetics or brain chemistry. Other potential risk factors include

  • Living a socially demanding life
  • Abuse or trauma
  • Low self-esteem or negative self-image
  • Excessive shyness
  • Having a physical appearance that draws attention


If left untreated, social anxiety disorder can have far-reaching consequences. People with social anxiety may start to avoid work or school, and as a result, their job or academic performance may suffer. They may also turn to alcohol or drugs to try and numb or ease their anxiety, which can lead to substance abuse and addiction.

The fear of being rejected or embarrassed can also make it hard to meet new people or stay in touch with existing friends, leading to social isolation and, in some cases, depression. Last but not least, social anxiety can make it difficult to form and maintain relationships, romantic or otherwise. 

Treating Social Anxiety Disorder 

Psychotherapy is by far the most effective treatment for social anxiety. Through psychotherapy, you’ll learn to identify negative thought patterns contributing to your anxiety and how to replace these thoughts with healthier or more positive ones.

Anxiety medications may also be prescribed as a short-term solution to help ease the symptoms of severe cases of social anxiety. Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, relaxation techniques, getting enough sleep, and healthy eating, can also help manage anxiety and promote overall wellness.

The Takeaway

Social anxiety is a common mental illness that can alienate those affected and make it difficult to function in social situations. But with proper treatment, social anxiety disorder is very manageable.

If you think you might have social anxiety, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. They can help you get the treatment you need to overcome your anxiety and live without fear of social interactions.

Request A Consultation