Social Anxiety Disorder: Types, Risk Factors, Management And More



Published on: 20-Feb-2024


10 min read




Amrita Sandhu


Social Anxiety Disorder: Types, Risk Factors, Management And More

Social Anxiety Disorder: Types, Risk Factors, Management And More

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Welcome readers! Have you ever wished the world had a mute button for those awkward silences and butterflies-in-your-stomach moments? If social gatherings leave you feeling more like a wallflower, you might be acquainted with the elusive "Social Anxiety Disorder."

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is a pervasive and often misunderstood mental health condition that significantly impacts an individual's ability to navigate social interactions. While occasional nervousness or discomfort in social situations is a common human experience, those with social phobia find themselves grappling with intense fear, self-consciousness, and a persistent dread of judgment. 

Do not worry, you are not alone! Millions of people globally share this fear, and you have nothing to worry about. In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of social anxiety disorder, exploring its symptoms, causes, and effective coping strategies. It's time to step out of the shadows and into your spotlight, where you shine, not shy away from the beauty of social connection!

Table Of Contents

  1. Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder

  2. 11 Types Of Social Anxiety Disorder You Should Know

  3. Major Causes And Risk Factors Of SAD

  4. Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment And Coping Strategies

  5. Social Anxiety Disorder Medication

  6. Thriving With Social Anxiety

  7. The Final Say

  8. FAQs

  9. References

Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder

Here are some things you should know about social anxiety disorder before delving into its causes and treatments:

1. Defining Social Anxiety Disorder

It is defined as the fear of social situations where the individual anticipates being judged or scrutinised by others. Social anxiety disorder is characterised by an overwhelming feeling in social situations. These situations can range from everyday interactions to more formal settings like presentations, meetings, or parties.

2. Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Excessive trembling

  • Nausea

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Intense self-consciousness

  • Avoidance of social situations

  • Experiencing physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms and fear of humiliation or embarrassment.

3. Onset And Prevalence

Many cases go undiagnosed due to the individual's reluctance to seek help, its prevalence is estimated to be around 7-13% of the population. SAD typically manifests during adolescence, although it can develop at any age. It affects both men and women.

Also Read: Seasonal Affective Disorder: Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

11 Types Of Social Anxiety Disorder You Should Know

Individuals may experience different types or aspects of social anxiety as social anxiety can manifest in various ways. Here are some common types or manifestations of social anxiety:

1. Performance Anxiety

Here, an individual experiences stress and anxiety related to tasks or activities where one's performance is observed. Fear of public speaking, performing in front of an audience, or being the centre of attention and evaluation are some of the situations where individuals may feel the symptoms and experience intense anxiety. 

2. Interactional Anxiety

Difficulty initiating or sustaining conversations and apprehension about engaging in one-on-one conversations or small group interactions, often due to fear of being judged or saying something embarrassing. Here, striking up conversations or maintaining them can feel daunting, fueled by fears of judgement and awkwardness.

3. Assertiveness Anxiety

Fear of confrontation or disagreement and difficulty expressing one's opinions, needs, or desires in social situations lead to avoidance of assertive communication.

4. Observational Anxiety

Fear of being scrutinised or judged or feeling self-conscious or anxious when others observe even in mundane activities like eating or writing.

5. Dating And Relationship Anxiety

Meeting new people romantically or engaging in intimate relationships where fear of rejection or negative evaluation in a romantic context and apprehension about dating.

6. Social Gathering Anxiety

Fear of being judged and uneasiness about attending parties, gatherings, or social events while not fitting in or not knowing what to say in social settings.

7. Workplace Anxiety:

Fear of making mistakes, being criticised, or anxiety related to professional settings, including meetings, presentations, interactions with colleagues, or not meeting expectations.

8. Online Social Anxiety

Discomfort or anxiety related to online interactions and fear of negative judgement or misinterpretation of one's online presence, including social media, forums, or virtual meetings.

Also Read: How To Use Social Media Mindfully For Mental Health

9. Phone Anxiety

Fear of awkward silence and apprehension about making or receiving phone calls. And not knowing what to say or being judged based on voice or speech patterns.

10. Academic Anxiety

Fear of participating and apprehension about being called on by teachers or professors in class discussions, giving presentations, or interacting with classmates.

11. Authority Figure Anxiety

Nervousness or fear when interacting with authority figures and agitation about making mistakes or being judged in a professional context, such as supervisors, bosses, or other figures of authority.

Major Causes And Risk Factors Of SAD

This disorder can have various causes and multiple factors, internally and externally, that can be risky. Read the following for more:

1. Genetic Predisposition

Studies reveal a higher prevalence of SAD among individuals with a family history of the disorder. Twin studies further bolster this link, suggesting genetic factors contribute significantly to its development. A 2019 study in Translational Psychiatry even identified structural differences in the amygdala (emotion processing region) of individuals with SAD, potentially making them more sensitive to social threats.

2. Environmental Influences

Early life experiences play a crucial role. Children exhibiting shyness or withdrawal might be more prone to SAD. Negative social experiences like bullying, teasing, or criticism can also contribute. Stressful life events, including public speaking or social rejection, can act as triggers.

3. Other Risk Factors

  • Low Self-Esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem are more likely to believe in negative judgments from others, fueling anxiety.

  • Perfectionism: Unrealistic expectations in social settings due to perfectionism can lead to anxiety and disappointment.

  • Substance Abuse: Individuals with SAD might resort to alcohol or drugs to cope, potentially worsening the problem long-term.

Also Read: How To Improve Social Wellness: Importance, Resources And Challenges

Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment And Coping Strategies

This section of the blog explores how to overcome social anxiety disorder. Read on to learn more:

1. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. While CBT is a widely recognised and practical therapeutic approach for treating social anxiety disorder. 

2. Exposure Therapy: This therapy gradually exposes you to feared social situations in a safe and controlled environment. By repeatedly facing your fears without experiencing negative consequences, you learn that your anxieties are often unfounded and develop coping mechanisms to manage them.

3. Medication: Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help regulate neurotransmitters involved in mood and anxiety, leading to reduced symptoms like excessive worry, physical discomfort, and social avoidance.

4. Self-Help Strategies: Mindfulness and relaxation techniques promote a sense of calm practices such as mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing, which can help manage anxiety.

5. Positive Visualisation: Encouraging positive mental imagery about social situations can reframe how individuals perceive and approach them.

6. Building Social Skills: Developing communication skills, assertiveness, and conflict resolution abilities empowers you to handle social interactions more effectively, reducing self-doubt and promoting positive experiences. Social skills training can empower individuals to navigate social interactions with greater confidence. 

Social Anxiety Disorder Medication

Medication cannot cure but can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. However, medication should only be taken under the advice and care of a professional but for general knowledge's sake, here are medications commonly prescribed to help manage social anxiety disorder:

Medication Type


How They Work


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine

SSRIs increase the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation in the brain.

Often considered first-line medications for social anxiety disorder; effective in reducing symptoms.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors

Duloxetine, and venlafaxine

SNRIs increase the levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine, impacting mood and anxiety.

Prescribed when SSRIs are not well-tolerated or effective.


Clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam

Have a calming effect on the central nervous system; known for rapid onset of action.

Provide quick relief; generally prescribed for short-term use due to the risk of dependence and withdrawal symptoms.


Atenolol, and propranolol

Block the effects of adrenaline, reducing physical symptoms of anxiety like rapid heartbeat and tremors.

Sometimes used on an as-needed basis before public speaking to manage performance-related anxiety.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Tranylcypromine, phenelzine

By inhibiting monoamine oxidase, MAOIs increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

Used to address anxiety by increasing neurotransmitter levels; less commonly prescribed due to potential side effects.

Thriving With Social Anxiety

Here are some ways one can thrive despite having a social anxiety disorder:

1. Building A Support System

To increase the sense of belonging and provide encouragement. Establishing a network of understanding friends, family, or support groups helps a lot.

2. Setting Realistic Goals

Combined with setting achievable goals and gradual exposure to challenging social situations, helps individuals build confidence and reduce anxiety.

3. Embracing Individuality

In the face of social challenges recognising and accepting oneself, including perceived flaws and imperfections, fosters self-compassion and resilience.

The Final Say

Seeking professional help, employing coping strategies, and building a supportive environment are crucial steps toward reclaiming a fulfilling and socially connected life. 

By unravelling the layers of SAD, we can foster a more compassionate society and support individuals. Social Anxiety Disorder is a complex and nuanced mental health condition that requires empathy, understanding, and effective interventions on the journey to not just cope with, but thrive despite social anxiety. 

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1. What helps social anxiety disorder?

Psychotherapy helps to cope with social anxiety disorder.

2. Does social anxiety disorder qualify for disability?

Yes, social anxiety disorder comes under the disability umbrella.

3. When is social anxiety disorder diagnosed?

The fear, sweating, nausea, or trembling lasts persistently up to 6 months or more, and then it is diagnosed with social anxiety disorder after consulting with the doctor.

4. Who treats social anxiety disorder?

A psychiatrist or psychologist treats social anxiety disorder.

5. Can social anxiety disorder go away on its own?

For some individuals, it does go away with age, but with some people, it needs proper medication and treatment to cure.


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