Social Anxiety Disorder

By Halton and Matthew

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is a type of mental condition and belongs to a more broad group of conditions called anxiety disorders. Those who suffer from social anxiety have an excessive amount of fear of social situations, to the point that it will start affecting their everyday life. Social situations include any kind of interaction with other people, such as meeting new people or just simply by talking to others.

Symptoms and Characteristics

  • People who have a hard time “fitting in”, whether it be in not participating in class discussions or avoiding to talk friends usually live in constant fear because they are afraid that they will do or say the wrong thing leading to others judging him. And when they do talk, they are usually shaky and nauseous.

  • Feeling nervous for something like a job interview or giving a presentation is normal, but when feeling scared to interact with others and doing it on a daily basis, well this can affect your school/work performance. These symptoms and characteristics are signs of having social anxiety disorder. It is also known as social phobia which belongs to a group of mental illnesses called anxiety disorders.

  • Some people may feel a sense of panic where they show physical signs of anxiety. Common ones include stomach aches, shallow breathing, sweating or feeling hot flashes, feeling like your heart is racing, feeling tightness in your chest, feeling tense and feeling shaky.

Who Is Affected?

  • Young children can be also affected although they usually don't know that they are experiencing anxiety. They just know that they are suffering from physical symptoms by having stomach aches, headaches or other physical symptoms caused by anxiety. They also know that they don’t want to do certain activities and so to express their anxiety, they might complain about physical discomfort, avoid social activities and refuse to go to school or act out.

  • This mental illness oftens starts sometime between childhood and teenage years, most likely before 18 years old and the typical age of onset is 13 years old. 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.

  • Women are also more likely to experience social anxiety disorder than men.

  • For many individuals, to escape the constant anxiety, they use alcohol as a self-medication because they know that alcohol consumption can reduce their performance anxiety. The rates of social phobia are nine times higher than individuals who abuse alcohol.

Goldberg, J. (Feb 23, 2014). Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

Social Anxiety Disorder. n.d. Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

Causes of Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Ironically, people with social anxiety disorder want to in fact make friends and have a sense of belonging but having this disorder prevents them from doing so. What holds someone with social anxiety disorder “back” is fear and the anxiety, although they want to be friendly, open and sociable.

  • Inherited traits: Anxiety disorders often run in families. Though, it isn't entirely clear how much of this may be due to nature and nurtured (learned behavior).

  • Brain structure: The amygdala (a structure in the brain) may play a role in controlling the fear response. People who have an overactive amygdala may have a heightened fear response, causing increased anxiety in social situations.

  • Environment: Social anxiety disorder may be a learned behavior. Which is, you may develop the condition after witnessing the anxious behavior of others. In addition, there may be an association between social anxiety disorder and parents who are more controlling or protective of their children. This is a major contributing factor to having social anxiety disorder and is most likely due to a negative interaction.
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The Stats

  • People who have one mental health disorder are also more likely to have other problems as they are linked to other mental illnesses. For example, many people who have social anxiety disorder have other mental illness like depression, bulimia nervosa (an eating disorder) and substance use disorder.

  • Bad and traumatic experiences can also cause distress at the time of when one has social anxiety disorder and they can leave a scar too. A common example is being bullied in school, anything that singles you out as an odd, different and unacceptable in the eyes of others can for sure make you vulnerable to social anxiety.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder is the 3rd largest mental health care problem in the world today
Recent government statistics show that social anxiety affects about 7% of the population at any given time
Richards, T. n.d. Social Anxiety Fact Sheet: What is Social Anxiety Disorder? Symtoms, Treatment, Prevalence, Medications, Insight, Prognosis. Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>


  • Being introduced to other people

  • Being teased or criticized

  • Being the center of attention

  • Being watched or observed while doing something

  • Meeting people in authority ("important people/authority figures")

  • Feeling insecure and out of place in social situations ("I don’t know what to say.")

  • Embarrassing easily (e.g., blushing, shaking)

  • Meeting other peoples’ eyes

  • Swallowing, writing, talking, making phone calls if in public

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Richards, T. n.d. Social Anxiety Fact Sheet: What is Social Anxiety Disorder? Symtoms, Treatment, Prevalence, Medications, Insight, Prognosis. Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

Impact of Social Anxiety Disorder

Individuals suffering from social anxiety may feel that many aspects of their life are taken over by this condition.

  • Avoiding anything that requires any form of social interaction, because it usually brings them fear and distress

  • Going out of their way to: avoid certain types of jobs, avoid attending classes, avoid hanging out with friends

  • Negative interpretations of their social interactions (eg. fear that they are making mistakes when in reality, they aren't)
  • Even outside of social situations, those affected by social anxiety will be feeling emotions of fear and apprehension as they may be worried and thinking about how their next social interactions will turn out. Those suffering from social anxiety will also find it harder to make friends. They may want to make friends and be more sociable but fear is what holds them back.

"Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year (health care services, medications, lost productivity)" - Facts and Statistics. (Sept 2014). Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

  • It is very important that family relationships are maintained as close family can play a big role in treating social anxiety. Family members may begin to feel a bit isolated from the person suffering from social anxiety as they may spend more time by themselves, eg. by not attending a family dinner.

Goldberg, J. (Feb 23, 2014). Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

Helping Family Members with Social Anxiety Disorder. n.d. Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

Richards, T. n.d. What is it Like to Live with Social Anxiety? Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

Treating Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Similarly to many other mental conditions, social anxiety is best treated as soon as symptoms are shown. It is important to understand that like all other mental illnesses, social anxiety can affect a person for several years if it is left untreated. There are many different methods of treatment, and these include: counselling and exposure, medication, and through support groups.

"Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment." - Facts and Statistics. (Sept 2014). Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>


Counselling consists of cognitive-behaviour therapy. In this kind of therapy, the patient tells a therapist about his or her experiences and feelings. The therapist would help the patient sort through their experiences and give advice to help guide the patient’s thought process. The therapy could also include exposure and desensitization, meaning that the patient would be slowly introduced to real-life social situations with the guidance of his or her therapist.

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Medications used to help treat social anxiety mainly help with the symptoms associated with the condition. Antidepressants help out with the mental symptoms by blocking or dampening negative emotions. Physical symptoms such as an excessive heartbeat or excessive shaking can be treated with medication called beta-blockers.

Support systems

Many support groups and support systems also exist for those suffering from social anxiety. In schools, students can speak to any teacher or with their guidance counselors who can direct them to support programs.

In Mississauga, one can contact the Peel branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, which hosts several workshops and meetups for everyone who may affected by social anxiety or other mental conditions. People suffering from social anxiety may find it hard at first to attend certain meetups because of their social nature and as such may find it easier to speak with a therapist first.

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Goldberg, J. (Feb 23, 2014). Social Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

Mental Health & Addictions Resources. (Feb 2015). Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

Social Anxiety Disorder. n.d. Retrieved Dec 13, 2015, from <>

There is a highly positive outlook for those who seek treatment. By combining these three methods of treatment, there is a high chance of overcoming social anxiety!