Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is a persistent and overwhelming fear of social situations. It's one of the most common anxiety disorders.
Social anxiety disorder is much more than "shyness". It can be intense fear and anxiety over simple everyday activities, such as shopping or speaking on the phone.
Many people sometimes worry about certain social situations, but someone with social anxiety disorder will worry excessively about them before, during and afterwards. They fear doing or saying something they think will be embarrassing or humiliating, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent.
Social anxiety disorder is a type of complex phobia. This type of phobia has a disruptive or disabling impact on a person's life. It can severely affect a person's confidence and self-esteem, interfere with relationships and impair performance at work or school.
Social anxiety disorder often starts during childhood or adolescence and tends to be more common in women. It's a recognised disorder that can be effectively treated, so you should see your GP if you think you have it.
A child with social anxiety disorder may cry more than usual, freeze, or have tantrums. They may fear going to school and taking part in classroom activities and school performances.
Teens and adults with social anxiety disorder may dread everyday activities, such as:
The fear of a social situation can sometimes build up to a panic attack, where you feel an overwhelming sense of fear, apprehension and anxiety. This usually only lasts a few minutes.
You may also experience physical symptoms, such as feeling sick, sweating, trembling and heart palpitations. These symptoms often reach a peak before quickly passing.
Although these type of symptoms can be alarming, they don't cause any physical harm.
Many people with social anxiety disorder will also have another mental health problem, such as:
Some people may also have a substance or alcohol misuse problem, because they use drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their anxiety.
As with many mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder is most probably the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Anxiety disorders often run in families, so you're more likely to have social anxiety disorder if a close family member is affected. However, the exact nature of the relationship between genetics and learned behaviour is uncertain.
The behaviour of parents may also have an influence on whether their child will develop social anxiety disorder. If you have worried or anxious parents, it can often affect your ability to cope with anxiety during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Almost all phobias can be successfully treated and cured.
People with social anxiety disorder often describe their parents as:
Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy and Counselling can be used in combination to successfully treat social anxiety and social phobia.
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Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) is one of six major anxiety disorders that have been identified, each with their own distinct symptom profile. You can read more about the other anxiety disorders here:
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