Information for the public
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder (also known as 'social phobia') is an overwhelming fear of social situations. It's a common mental health problem that affects people of all ages. Although everyone worries from time to time about coping with a social situation, for people with social anxiety disorder the worry or fear can last a long time and severely affect their lives. They are afraid of doing or saying something that will result in embarrassment, humiliation or rejection by others. For example, they worry that they might blush, sweat, shake or look nervous or seem boring, stupid or strange. They may also worry about talking too much or too little when they are anxious. These fears and worries can happen before, during and after any social situation.
People with social anxiety disorder usually avoid social situations such as group activities, parties or dates, or get through them only with considerable anxiety. They often don't speak in groups or meetings, and find it very difficult to start a conversation with another person. Because of this, they may struggle to stay in school or their job even if they are doing well in their work. They may find it hard to make friends or have other close relationships. Children and young people may be completely silent in social situations or avoid going to school, and may be irritable, very shy or overly reliant on their parents.
Some people think their social anxiety is a personal flaw or failing, but it is a recognised condition and can be treated.