Skip left navigation
Subscribe to Mental Health email updates.
Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and very self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have a strong fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation. This fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other ordinary activities, and can make it hard to make and keep friends.
Physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include:
- Difficulty talking
Social phobia affects about 15 million American adults and affects women and men in equal numbers. People with social phobia often have other anxiety disorders and/or depression as well. Substance abuse can develop if a person with social phobia uses alcohol or drugs to soothe their anxiety.
Return to top
If you think you have an anxiety disorder such as social phobia, the first person you should see is your family doctor. A physician can determine whether the symptoms that alarm you are due to an anxiety disorder, another medical condition, or both.
Treatment options include:
- Cognitive therapy (to change or get rid of destructive thought patterns)
- Behavioral therapy (to change a person's behavior)
- A combination of these treatments
Return to top
More information on Social phobia (or social anxiety disorder)
Explore other publications and websites
Screening for Social Anxiety Disorder (Copyright © Anxiety Disorders Association of America) - This self-test can help you determine if the social discomfort you feel is part of social anxiety disorder. Your doctor can interpret the results, and if necessary, recommend treatment options for you.
Social Anxiety Disorder (Copyright © Anxiety Disorders Association of America) - This brochure explains the difference between normal anxiety and social anxiety disorder (SAD). It answers some basic questions about SAD, offers advice on how to manage your anxiety, and provides resources for getting help.
Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) (Copyright © Anxiety Disorders Association of America) - This fact sheet describes Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and links to books and a self-test for SAD.
Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Abuse (Copyright © Anxiety Disorders Association of America) - It isn’t unusual for people with social anxiety disorder to also have a problem with alcohol abuse. This fact sheet can help you determine if your alcohol use is becoming a problem, and if so, where you can get help.
Social Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia (Copyright © Helpguide.org) - This fact sheet describes different situations in which someone with social anxiety disorder would feel anxious, and explains the symptoms and treatment of the disorder.
Social Phobia (Copyright © Nemours Foundation) - This fact sheet is written for teens but has great advice about overcoming social phobia for people of all ages. It contains a breathing exercise for relaxation and tips for defeating negative self-talk.
Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder) - This easy-to-read booklet on social phobia (social anxiety disorder) explains what it is, when it starts, how long it lasts, and how to get help.
Connect with other organizations
Content last updated March 29, 2009.
Resources last updated March 29, 2009.
Return to top