Social Anxiety Disorder



The exact cause of social anxiety disorder is unknown. Possible causes are:

  • Genetics
  • Painful social experiences

Risk Factors

Social anxiety disorder often starts in teens and young adults. It is more common in women than in men. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Family history of anxiety or mood disorders
  • Other mental health problems, such as: anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, or substance abuse
  • Being single, separated, or widowed
  • Childhood stress
  • Parenting that is too protective or harsh
  • Long term illness
  • Nervousness in new situations



Symptoms are intense fear of being judged by others. They may happen when a person is:

  • The center of attention
  • Meeting new people
  • Talking to authorities—such as bosses, teachers, or policemen
  • Talking to the opposite sex
  • Eating, writing, or speaking in public
  • Using public toilets

Physical symptoms of anxiety occur, such as:

  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or twitching
  • Dry throat and mouth
  • Fast heartbeat or lightheadedness


The doctor will ask about fears and symptoms. A physical exam may be done. The person may need to see a mental health specialist. A mental health assessment may be done.



The goal is to ease symptoms. Other mental health problems may also need to be treated. Options may be:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy—to change negative thoughts and behaviors
  • Relaxation skills—such as deep breathing and meditation
  • A support group
  • Lifestyle changes—such as healthy eating, daily exercise, and avoiding substances
  • Medicines, such as:
    • SSRIs, SNRIs, or other antidepressants—to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression
    • Benzodiazepines—to calm the nervous system
    • Some nerve and seizure medicines
    • Medicines that lower blood pressure or heart rate


There are no guidelines to prevent social anxiety disorder.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.