What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is a common form of anxiety characterized by an intense and distressing degree of discomfort and/or fear in social situations. Social anxiety is most often triggered when interacting with other people or in situations where one’s actions or appearance may be judged or evaluated by others.

People experiencing social anxiety typically experience a heightened awareness and concern for how other people may perceive them and almost always believe that they are being judged negatively, at least in the moment. People with social anxiety oftentimes develop patterns of avoiding certain places or situations in order to prevent embarrassment, failure, or some other form of perceived harm.

When any of the above symptoms begin to interfere with a person’s life or cause health or safety concerns, seeking professional help from a trained mental health professional (e.g., therapist, counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist) is highly recommended.


Common Symptoms of Social Anxiety

nervousness, irritability, stress

rumination, racing thoughts, excessive planning

rapid heart beat, nausea, rapid breathing (e.g., hyperventilation), dizziness or feeling faint, chest tightness, frequent headaches, low energy, fatigue

avoiding social interactions or places that elicit anxiety, fidgeting, shaking or trembling, speaking faster than usual, hypervigilance


Treatment Approaches for Social Anxiety

Therapy for social anxiety is primarily behaviorally focused and involves gradually confronting feared social situations in order to develop skills and strategies to tolerate the discomfort of anxiety and to change underlying thoughts and behaviors that perpetuate fear.


CBT is the most common treatment for social anxiety. CBT therapists assist individuals with identifying and challenging unhelpful cognitive patterns, analyzing the connection between thoughts and behaviors, and developing more effective thought processes and behavioral patterns.


Exposure therapy is a behaviorally-focused treatment that involves confronting feared triggers, experiences, and/or situations in a systematic manner. Exposure therapy is among the most effective psychotherapeutic interventions.


ACT is a behaviorally-oriented therapeutic approach that aims to modify how a person relates and responds to their internal experiences (i.e., thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and urges) in order to more fully engage in values-based behaviors.

Learn More About Social Anxiety

Articles, resources, and other helpful information about social anxiety.

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