Social Anxiety Disorder
En Español (Spanish Version)
More InDepth Information on This Condition

Definition
Social anxiety disorder is the intense fear of social situations. People with social anxiety disorder:

  • Avoid interactions with other people
  • Are extremely afraid of being judged negatively by others
  • Feel humiliated, embarrassed, and inadequate more easily than others
Social anxiety may be:

  • Generalized to all social interactions
  • Specific to certain social situations, such as public speaking
Social anxiety disorder is much more severe than shyness. It can interfere with work, school, or other situations, as well as cause physical symptoms.

Physical Reactions of Anxiety

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Causes
The exact cause is unknown. Possible causes include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Problems with the regulation of chemicals in the brain
  • Past emotional trauma in social situations
Risk Factors
Social anxiety disorder is most common in adolescence and early adulthood. Factors that increase your chance for social anxiety disorder include:

Symptoms
Symptoms may begin in any public situation such as:

  • Being teased or criticized
  • Being the center of attention
  • Meeting new people
  • Interacting with authority figures
  • Interacting with members of the opposite sex
  • Eating, writing, or speaking in public
  • Using public toilets
Symptoms during these social interactions may include:

  • Blushing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling
  • Dry throat and mouth
  • Muscle twitches
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Lightheadness
Diagnosis
You will be asked about your fears and symptoms. A physical exam may be done. You may be referred to a mental health specialist. A psychiatric evaluation may be done.

Treatment
Treatments may include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
During cognitive-behavioral therapy , the therapist may:

  • Help you change your negative thought patterns and behaviors
  • Teach you techniques to help you control anxiety symptoms, such as deep breathing, visualization, and meditation
  • Suggest changes to your social environment to minimize stress
  • Gradually expose you to feared situations in a controlled environment
A support group may also be part of your treatment.

Medication
The following medications may be used to help control symptoms:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressants—to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Beta-blockers—to stop the physical symptoms of panic and anxiety (has been used to relieve the performance anxiety that often occurs with social anxiety disorder)
Other medications may include:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Anticonvulsants
Prevention
There are no guidelines for preventing social anxiety disorder. But early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications, such as:

  • Drug abuse
  • Depression
  • Difficulties at school, work, or in your personal life



RESOURCES:
Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Social Anxiety Association

CANADIAN RESOURCES:
Canadian Psychiatric Association

Canadian Psychological Association

References:
Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273. Updated August 12, 2010. Accessed November 11, 2014.

Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 29, 2014. Accessed November 11, 2014.

Last Reviewed November 2014



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