Health A to Z

Social anxiety

It’s normal to feel anxious about public speaking or a job interview.

social anxiety, social anxiety causes, social anxiety symptoms, social anxiety treatment

However, if you feel anxious about social or performance situations intensely or frequently, you may have social anxiety disorder or social phobia, the most common anxiety disorder, affecting between seven and 13 percent of the population, according to Anxiety BC. If you have social anxiety disorder, you feel self-conscious and nervous in social situations and concerned that you’ll embarrass yourself.

Social anxiety causes Social anxiety disorder may arise due to a combination of genes—it runs in families–and environmental factors. It is also associated with other problems including low self-esteem, depression and substance abuse.

Social anxiety symptoms In social situations (or before them) you may experience a wide range of symptoms including stomach upset, a racing heart, dizziness, sweating and blushing. If you have social anxiety, you might think negative thoughts that you won’t do well or will not say the right thing in the given situation. You may also find yourself avoiding social situations, such as parties, or engaging in behaviours, such as drinking alcohol to help you get through them. You may only experience social anxiety in certain situations.

Social anxiety diagnosis/tests If social anxiety is happening often and causing you problems at work or school or in your relationships or day-to-day activities, talk to your doctor. She may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for evaluation or treatment. She’ll ask about your symptoms and may have you complete a questionnaire to help with diagnosis.

Social anxiety treatment Social phobia will likely not go away on its own and is treatable:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) may be recommended to help alleviate your symptoms by changing the way you think about social situations and providing exposure to them which builds confidence.

Medications For some people, anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications may be helpful.

Social anxiety prevention Experts do not know how to prevent social anxiety but early treatment is important to help avoid or reduce the risk of problems related to social anxiety, such as alcoholism.

Outside resources
Anxiety Canada
Social Phobia