Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is a persistent and extreme fear of being watched or judged by other people. People who have social anxiety might also be nervous or worried that they might do something embarrassing. This anxiety can last for days before and after an encounter that triggers the anxiety, and this might lead someone to avoid situations or places with lots of people. It can also make it difficult for people to take part in everyday activities, like work and school.
Is social anxiety the same as being shy? No. Everyone feels shy once in a while, especially when meeting new people or in unfamiliar situations. But typically, shyness doesn’t prevent people from taking part in activities that they enjoy.
What causes social anxiety? There are a number of factors that might cause social anxiety like behavior learned by the people around you (especially parents) and life events (like being bullied or more serious traumatic events that cause people to be fearful of certain situations).
Getting help for social anxiety. People with social anxiety often know that their fears are irrational, but don’t know how to control them. But there is help available for people with social anxiety. If you think you might have social anxiety, start by sharing your concerns with a trusted adult, friend or family member. It may also be important that you talk to a doctor, counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist, since these health professionals can help you begin to build the skills you need to manage anxiety.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.