By Nasrin Kapadia

B. A. Psychology

08 September 2021
Medically reviewed by
Dhanashree Padhye
MA (Psychology)
Table of Contents

Are you frightened of being judged by others? Are you self-conscious in an everyday situation? Do you avoid meeting new people? It's natural to feel nervous in such social situations that may cause the feeling of butterflies in your stomach.

If you have been feeling the same for at least six months & these feelings are creating obstacles for you to perform your everyday tasks, you may have a social anxiety disorder or social phobia.

Feel intensely uncomfortable in social situations? Use this guide to learn about symptoms, treatment, and self-help tips to overcome social phobia.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder also referred to as social phobia, is a type of anxiety that causes intense fear in social settings. Anxiety is the distress that results from the anticipation of an event, and phobia is an irrational fear of specific situations or objects.

Individuals with this ailment feel anxious while communicating with people, encountering new people, & attending a social gathering. Though anxiety, in general, is a social situation, it affects personal or professional life & lasts for at least 6 months.

Individuals know that their fear is excessive, but it often feels that the anxiety is overpowering and out of control. The trigger of social phobia varies among people but may include the following:

Generally, people avoid treatment, believing it’s just a part of their personality. If left untreated, social phobia disorder can lead to a chronic mental health condition. (Heimberg, R.G. ed., 1995)

What are the symptoms of Social Phobia Disorder?

Some of the common physical symptoms of social phobia disorder are:

  • blushing
  • nausea
  • excessive sweating
  • trembling difficulty speaking
  • dizziness  

Psychological symptoms may include:

  • worrying intensely about social situations
  • stressing for days or weeks before an event
  • avoiding social situations
  • worrying about embarrassing yourself in a social situation
  • fearing that other people will notice you are stressed or nervous
  • need alcohol to face a social situation
  • missing school or work because of anxiety

It’s normal to feel anxious at times; symptoms of social anxiety may not occur in every situation. However, it is curable with therapies like talking therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, & medications that can help overcome symptoms.

What causes social phobia disorder?

The exact cause of social phobia disorder is still unknown. Some of the current research supports that it is triggered by a combination of genetics & environmental factors. Negative incidents may also contribute to this ailment, including:

  • Bullying
  • Family conflict
  • Sexual abuse

Physical abnormalities such as serotonin imbalance can also lead to social phobia. Serotonin is a chemical, which helps regulate mood. An overactive amygdala may also contribute to this disorder.

Anxiety disorders can be genetic, but researchers are not sure if they are linked with genetic factors or not. For instance, a child might develop symptoms of the disorder by learning from one of their parents who has an anxiety disorder. Children can also acquire the symptoms of anxiety if being raised in a controlled & overprotective environment. (Heimberg, R.G. ed., 1995)

Treatment for Social phobia:

There are several types of treatment available for treating social phobia. The treatment differs from individual to individual as some need only one kind of treatment while others require more than one.

Your healthcare associate may refer you to a mental health provider for treatment. Treatment options for social phobia may include medications & psychotherapy, or sometimes both.

Cognitive behavioral therapy:

This therapy helps in controlling anxiety with the help of relaxation techniques and breathing & also helps to replace negative opinions with positive ones.

Exposure therapy:

The therapy helps to face social situations, rather than avoid them.

Group therapy:

Group therapy helps you to learn social skills & techniques to interact with people in social settings. By participating in group therapy with others who have the same stress and anxiety will make you feel less alone. It might give you a chance to practice your skills through role-playing.

Self-help tips to treat Social phobia:

  • Challenge negative thoughts
  • Focus on others not on yourself
  • Learn to control your breathing
  • Face off your fears
  • Make effort to be more social
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Take time to relax
  • Reframe your thoughts

Medications for Social phobia:

Three main types of medications that can help manage symptoms of social phobia are antianxiety medications, antidepressants, & beta-blockers.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, used as antidepressants, can also provide ease in treating social phobia disorder. Some examples may include:

  • paroxetine
  • sertraline
  • fluoxetine

Antianxiety medications:

Antianxiety medications act rapidly to alleviate anxiety symptoms, but healthcare physicians recommend these medications for a short period as they can create dependence. Some examples may include:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Clonazepam (klonopin)


Beta-blockers help block the physical effects of anxiety by blocking the stimulating effects of adrenaline.


There’s no way to predict what can trigger someone’s anxiety, but you can follow certain steps to alleviate the impact of symptoms if you’re anxious.

Get help early- Social phobia, is like many other mental health conditions, can be challenging to treat if you wait.

Keep a journal- Keep track of your personal life as it may help you and your mental health care professional identify what’s trigger off your stress & which of the specific things make you feel calm & relaxed.

Set priorities in life- To reduce anxiety, you need to manage your time and energy carefully. Spend some of it on things that make the world feel less stressful for a change! Avoid unhealthy substances- Use of alcohol, caffeine, and drug or use of nicotine can worsen anxiety. If you are addicted to any of these substances, gradually quitting can make you more anxious. It is recommended to consult a healthcare associate or find a treatment program or support to relieve you.

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