top of page

Home  >> Problems  >>

Social Anxiety Disorder

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a persistent fear of social situations. This extends beyond day-to-day shyness, resulting in a range of negative beliefs and behaviours that impact on daily life including relationships and work/school. Individuals experiencing social anxiety disorder commonly believe that they may be negatively judged by others. This results in a variety of negative thoughts about how they may be perceived. Social anxiety generally develops during adolescence with sufferers often reporting extreme shyness during childhood.

If you are experiencing social anxiety, you may have negative beliefs about yourself in social situations e.g. ‘I’m boring’ or ‘I have nothing to say’. You may notice that you focus a lot on how you are coming across to others and fear that you are not making a good impression. Lots of individuals with social anxiety experience physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking or blushing which often cause further embarrassment and feelings of self-consciousness. It is also common to ruminate about social situations and how the interactions went, as well as to anticipate and fear future social events.  

Social anxiety can get in the way of living the most fulfilling possible life. Individuals with social anxiety can be negatively impacted in terms of their ability to speak in public or to express their opinions. They may find it more difficult to socialise, impacting their social lives and relationships. Anxiety about social situations can lead to avoidance which can then result in isolation. This can then impact mood and sometimes result in other difficulties such as depression, substance abuse or low self-esteem.   

How common is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health disorders and is thought to affect as many as 1 in 10 adults. It more commonly experienced by women, with around twice as many women as men reporting social anxiety disorder.  

What is the treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder?

Individuals experiencing social anxiety disorder often believe that their anxiety is a part of their personality, and nothing can be done about it. However, the evidence suggests that social anxiety disorder is a treatable condition. CBT is the preferred treatment for social anxiety disorder. This can help to identify some of the underlying causes of the anxiety, the triggers for anxiety and the resulting thoughts and behaviours that exacerbate it. Some techniques that might be explored include: 

  • Identifying and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs about social situations.  

  • Behavioural experiments to challenge negative thoughts 

  • Graded exposure to social situations  

  • Relaxation strategies to reduce physical anxiety symptoms 

Third wave therapies such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can also help to reduce social anxiety through changing the relationship with thoughts and emotions and focusing on values-based actions.  

bottom of page