by Elizabeth McIngvale, PhD | Director

Social anxiety is a very common anxiety disorder that impacts 3-13% of the population. Social anxiety is the unreasonable or excessive fear or discomfort in social or performance situations. Individuals with social anxiety anticipate that they will be judged by others, make a bad impression, or do something embarrassing. Therefore, they often avoid social situations or force themselves to endure the situations while feeling intense anxiety. There may often be extreme anxiety in anticipation of related to upcoming social situations, distressing thoughts and anxiety symptoms during the feared situation. This experience can lead to either actual or perceived poor performance in the situation, further leading to embarrassment and increased anxiety in the future. Social anxiety is experienced these with different levels of intensity. For those with social phobia, the extreme fear or avoidance of social situations interferes with one’s daily routine, school/work life and/or their social life and relationships. Sometimes social anxiety is specific to certain of social situations. For example, some may feel extreme distress in formal situations, like at meetings or presentations, and others may feel more distress in more casual and intimate situations, like at a party or in a small group of friends. While others may have more generalized social phobia and experience anxiety in performance situations as well as social interactions.

Onset for social anxiety usually occurs in the mid-teens, with a childhood history of shyness, though for some. Onset may begin in early childhood. Some individuals report onset of social anxiety occurring after a particular stressful or embarrassing experience. The course of anxiety often continues for the individual, although the social anxiety will vary in severity during that time, often depending on life stressors and demands.