In a 12-month period approximately 7% of the US population experiences anxiety in social situations that goes beyond a little nervousness or shyness. Individuals with social anxiety disorder experience intense anxiety in social situations where they fear possible scrutiny by others. Some examples of situations that may provoke this fear may include meeting new people, first dates, public speaking, even eating or drinking around others. The individual fears that he or she will behave in a way that will cause humiliation or embarrassment and that this may lead to rejection or offending others. Usually the fear is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social situation. Individuals suffering from social anxiety may inherently know that the amount of fear is unreasonable, but can’t control it and feel the only options are to either avoid or endure the situation under great distress.
There are several parts of the brain involved in fear and anxiety. Brain biology, environmental and social influences may all play a role in the development of social anxiety disorder.
There are many different treatment strategies for social anxiety disorder including medications and cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy. It’s important to work with mental health professional such as a licensed therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist to find an individualized treatment plan.