Social anxiety disorder causes unreasonable,
debilitating fear of being judged or publicly humiliated. You may avoid or
severely limit encounters with other people—which can keep you from daily
activities. You may develop physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat,
shortness of breath, or tightness in your chest when faced with a feared social
When you have social anxiety disorder, common social
situations—such as eating in public, writing in front of other people, using a
public restroom, or speaking in front of others—can cause overwhelming fear and
You may be more afraid of people noticing your
anxiety than of the actual feared situation. A vicious
cycle can emerge of avoiding or worrying about the social event (such as
speaking in public) because you are afraid others will see you as weak,
anxious, or foolish—this, in turn, leads to more anxiety. This may lead to
avoiding or limiting contact with other people.
Symptoms of social
anxiety disorder may differ in adults and children.
Adults and teenagers with social anxiety disorder usually
recognize their fears of being publicly humiliated are unreasonable or
excessive. But children who have this disorder may not.
People with social anxiety disorder often underachieve at work or
at school to avoid the attention of a promotion or to avoid being forced to
participate in a group. They tend to have few friendships and have trouble
dating or developing relationships. In prolonged or severe cases, many people
develop other psychological conditions (such as
Social anxiety disorder
is among several types of
phobias that many people experience, such as
a specific phobia (fearing an object, like a spider, or
a frightening situation, such as being stuck in an elevator).
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
June 13, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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