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Social Anxiety Disorder - Topic Overview

People with social anxiety disorder (or social phobia) are extremely anxious about what they will say or do in front of other people. This includes public speaking and day-to-day social situations. But it is more than just being shy or nervous before public speaking. The fear can begin weeks or months before an event. It can cause a fast heartbeat and make it hard to focus.

Some people fear only one or a few types of social situations. For other people, many situations cause stress. This problem affects your daily life. You may be so stressed or afraid that you avoid public situations, including missing work and school.

Doctors don't know what causes social anxiety disorder. They think it may run in families. But they are not sure if it's because of genetics or a response to a traumatic situation.

Social anxiety disorder causes both emotional and physical symptoms:

  • It can make you nervous, sad, or easily upset before or during a social event. You may worry a lot or be afraid that something bad will happen.
  • The anxiety can cause you to blush, sweat, and feel shaky. Your heart may beat faster than normal, and you may have a hard time focusing.

To diagnose social anxiety disorder, your doctor will examine you and ask about your symptoms. He or she may ask other questions to see how you are doing emotionally. This is called a mental health assessment.

Your doctor may also do blood or urine tests to rule out other conditions, such as thyroid problems that can cause similar symptoms.

Treatment of social anxiety disorder includes counseling and sometimes medicine, such as antidepressants. Whether you need medicine depends on how much the problem affects your daily life. If you already feel anxious around other people, it may be hard to ask for help. But treatment for social anxiety disorder works for many people.

Some people with social anxiety disorder turn to alcohol or drugs to help them relax. This can lead to addiction problems. They may also have depression. It is important to treat these issues too.

Learning about social anxiety disorder:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 11, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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