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Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Many people experience shyness, a familiar feeling of discomfort or tension when facing social events (a big party, for example), preparing to take a social risk (asking someone for a first date), or getting ready to do something in front of others (public speaking). For the most part, the typical shy person manages to get along reasonably well, finding situations tolerable and even the cause of some satisfaction once handled. 

    • Up to 80% of people report shyness at some time in their lives
    • 40% describe themselves as shy now

Shyness is no longer an appropriate label, however, once these feelings become severe or intense; cause an individual to avoid important situations; or curtail the ability to function socially or at home, school or work. 

Individuals with social anxiety disorder—also referred to as social phobia or extreme shyness—fear being observed and evaluated negatively by others, and worry excessively about humiliating or embarrassing themselves. These feelings can be overwhelming and disruptive to their lives. 

Scientists tend not to agree on the causes, but here is what is known about social anxiety disorder: 

    • Occurs more frequently in women than men, though men are more likely to seek treatment
    • Appears to run in families, often reported to occur in one parent, or in families that neither socialize nor encourage children to interact with other children
    • Is perhaps caused more by the environment in which one grows up

Effects of Social Anxiety Disorder 

Serious social anxiety effects are varied and numerous, because so much of what we do involves other people, as in: 

    • Public speaking
    • Eating or drinking with others
    • Writing, working or playing while others are watching
    • Initiating conversations with strangers
    • Dating, attending parties or joining social groups 
    • Interacting with authority figures or asserting oneself with others 

As a result, bright, talented and sensitive people with social anxiety may find themselves lonely and isolated. They may compromise education or work goals, because of the social demands of campus or office life or because of public speaking requirements. 

Social anxiety is one of the most common expressions of anxiety disorders and is often accompanied by depression, as well as alcohol or substance abuse problems.


Read more about CFI’s treatment options for Social Anxiety Disorder and other anxiety disorders.



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