Social Anxiety Disorder

Also known as SAD

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a mental health issue that involves a dread of social situations including performing or speaking in front of others for fear of being negatively judged. According to mental health experts, SAD impacts 7% of the U.S. population.  

Although it's common for many people to experience nervousness or feel "butterflies" when facing certain social situations, people with SAD are extremely self-conscious and worry about what people think to the point that they often experience physical symptoms. These may include a rapid heart rate, sweating, blushing, nausea, shaking, and lightheadedness.

People with SAD often benefit from psychotherapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Medication is also recommended to help cope and take control of the situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I have social anxiety or am I just shy?

    Unfortunately, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is often dismissed as just extreme shyness. In general, the main symptoms that distinguish shyness from SAD are:

    • The impairment of functioning that it causes in a person’s life
    • The intensity of the fear
    • The level of avoidance
  • Does social anxiety go away?

    For most people, social anxiety does not go away on its own, but treatment for it has been found to be effective. Social anxiety that occurs in all situations responds best to a combination of medication and therapy, while therapy alone is often sufficient for people with anxiety specific to one type of performance or social situation. So, if you've been diagnosed or think you may have SAD, know that it's possible to overcome it.

  • Can social anxiety be cured naturally?

    While alternative treatments such as yoga or dietary supplements are not a substitute for evidence-based treatments for social anxiety, you may find that they help with particular SAD symptoms by promoting feelings of calmness. Alternative medicines should be considered complementary to treatments proven effective for SAD such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Key Terms

Page Sources
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  5. National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders . Updated July 2018.