Social anxiety disorder, sometimes referred to as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme fear in social settings. People with this disorder have trouble talking to people, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings. They fear being judged or scrutinized by others. They may understand that their fears are irrational or unreasonable, but feel powerless to overcome them.
Social anxiety is different from shyness. Shyness is usually short-term and doesn’t disrupt one’s life. Social anxiety is persistent and debilitating. It can affect one’s ability to:
- attend school
- develop close relationships with people outside of their family
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) approximately 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder. Symptoms of this disorder may start around the age of 13.