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Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) / social phobia and its symptoms

What is social anxiety disorder?

Also known as SAD, or social phobia, social anxiety disorder sufferers experience social discomfort when in social situations. Social anxiety disorders sufferers can also experience high anxiety when eating writing, performing or speaking in front of other people. Sufferers also often experience increased anxiety when they are interviewed or made the center of attention.

People with social anxiety disorder realize that their anxiety is inappropriate and yet are often completely powerless to do anything about it.

Sufferers also often find that their anxiety can start to rise weeks or even months before an event and can also find that when the event day is reached, they cancel or postpone the event.


There are three levels of social phobia:

Performance social anxiety disorder

Sufferers experience high anxiety when they feel the center of attention. For example, when giving a speech.

Avoidant personality disorder

Considered to be the most severe, this usually starts at an early age and is more common in males. This disorder means sufferers have problems functioing in social environments and as such have few friends and rarely marry. This level of disorder can be treated using similar methods to those used for...

Generalized social anxiety disorder

The most common social anxiety disorder. This effects the sufferer in many social environments, from work to parties and may mean the sufferer misses out on many life-affirming moments both big and small.

What are the symptoms?

The physical manifestations of social anxiety disorder include the features of anxiety disorder namely, palpitations, rapid heart beat, panic attacks, dizziness, shortness of breath etc. If you area sufferer it may be that you feel overwhelmed when socializing, even when with members of your own family. You may find socializing outsode of your family unit impossible.

People with social anxiety disorder are aware that their feelings are irrational and inappropriate. Even if they are able to confront their fears, they often eperience extreme anxiety and panic attacks and the lead up to any event becomes a dreadful journey filled with fear, doubt and procrastination. After an event, the sufferer often experiences the lingering affects of high anxiety including dizziness, lethargy, weakness and palpitations and they may also feel that others are judging them or making fun of them.

Who suffers from social phobia?

SAD affects about 5.3 million adults in Americas; the European statistics are unclear but likely to reflect the US figures. Social anxiety disorders occur in women twice as often as in men. Social anxiety disorder usually begins in childhood or early adolescence, and there exists string evidence that genetics play a part.

SAD often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders including panic disorder, agoraphobia, OCD or depression. Substance abuse may develop in individuals who attempt to 'self-medicate' their social phobia by drinking alcohol or using drugs.