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Social Anxiety Disorder, Risk Factors and Symptoms


This paper focuses on the peculiarities of social anxiety disorder that prevents people from living normal lives as they cannot communicate with others. It describes its main symptoms, including physical, emotional, and behavioral ones. For instance, attention is paid to anxiety and fear of interacting with strangers and making presentations in public. Generally, the affected population is identified as teenagers. Risk factors that affect the development of the disorder are identified. They include family history, negative experience, and genetics, etc. The main causes and complications associated with a social anxiety disorder are pointed out. Finally, the way diagnosis is made is explained and treatment options are considered, including medication and psychotherapy.

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All people have an experience of being nervous. This feeling is normal for a person who gives a presentation or is interviewed for a job. Both scary and new situations may make people anxious, and it is not a problem to be treated. Nevertheless, a lot of Americans deal with anxiety even in everyday situations. They are afraid to be negatively perceived so much that they start experiencing severe fear even when having a simple conversation with peers, making a phone call, or ordering coffee. Such experiences are typically associated with a social anxiety disorder that is also known as social phobia. People who suffer from it start avoiding all interactions with other individuals in order not to face fear and anxiety. As a result, their lives disrupted because of stress that prevents them from practicing their daily routine activities. Unfortunately, this condition is chronic, which means that it can hardly be treated completely. However, it is possible to jugulate this disease with the help of psychotherapy and appropriate medication (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). In this way, a person is expected to restore one’s confidence and receive the ability to communicate with others again.


Regardless of some general beliefs, shyness, and discomfort of being in public are not the only symptoms of social anxiety disorder. It the majority of cases, it presupposes nervousness, fear, and anxiety. The main population that suffers from this condition includes teenagers. Nevertheless, it can affect children and adults as well. They typically experience various symptoms, including emotional, behavioral, and physical ones.

The main characteristic of social anxiety disorder is the fear of being judged. People believe that they will be negatively assessed by others that is why they do everything possible to avoid those situations when such things can happen. They are more than just worried about being embarrassed. Individuals with social phobia are afraid of these experiences. They experience similar feelings when contacting other people even if those are their relatives and friends but the worst symptoms are observed during interactions with strangers. Moreover, affected individuals are afraid that people around them will notice that they feel uncomfortable and anxious.

In this way, they are worried about blushing, sweating, and other body reactions to such feelings. Of course, they also tend to avoid being the center of attention or just participating in some events. At the early stages of social anxiety disorder, people often analyze their performance after social situations, identifying their weaknesses. In addition to that, they are awaiting the worst possible outcomes from communication, which affects their overall attitude. Those children who have social anxiety disorder reveal it through crying, mood swings, and refusal to speak (Leichsenring & Leweke, 2017). It is interesting that such symptoms can be experienced only while speaking in public, which is a performance type of social anxiety disorder.

Social phobia is presented by a range of physical symptoms as well. Those people who suffer from it often experience such things as blushing, fast heartbeat, and sweating when they interact with other individuals. Moreover, their voice can tremble as they speak. In a similar way, they tend to face dizziness or lightheadedness caused by the issues when catching their breath. They also can experience nausea and muscle tension, which prevents them from relaxing and feeling normal.

All in all, those individuals who have social anxiety disorder experience these symptoms in a wide range of situations that require interaction with others. As a rule, they try to avoid those cases when there is a necessity to contact unfamiliar people. Thus, they do not attend places where people gather, such as parties. The situation turns so critical that they become unable to go to school or work because these places are full of individuals who will interact with them (Naragon-Gainey, Gallagher, & Brown, 2014). Even if meeting someone, people with social phobia do not start conversations and avoid making eye contact. They cannot have normal relationships and create a couple because they feel anxious when dating. Such ordinary things as using a public restroom or eating in a restaurant become impossible due to the necessity to face other people.

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Social anxiety disorder is an issue faced by the individuals of the general public that can both develop and slow. As a result, people tend to experience changes in symptoms over time. For example, they can worsen if a person faces a lot of stressful situations, one may feel worse and become more worried than usual. On the other hand, avoidance of such experiences is likely to make one feel better at least for a short period of time. Nevertheless, long-term improvement is possible only when appropriate treatment is prescribed and followed.

Risk Factors, Causes, and Complications

As it was already mentioned, usually social anxiety disorder starts developing in teenagers. Still, some alterations can also be observed. As a rule, it depends on those risk factors people experience.

Professionals indicate that women are diagnosed with social phobia more often than men, which means that people’s gender affects the risk of developing this health issue. Genetics can also determine if one is likely to suffer from this disorder. For instance, those individuals whose parents were diagnosed with it have more chances of having the same problems compared to those people who have no relatives with social phobia. There is also a hypothesis that individuals who witnessed anxiety in others can face the development of the symptoms of this disorder in themselves (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). For instance, those who have overprotective parents may be at risk. One’s brain structure may also be seen as a cause of the social phobia. A part of it that controls the fear response may be overactive, which leads to increased anxiety in typical situations.

Of course, life experiences are also extremely influential. If a person was bullied or humiliated as a child, one may have a negative perception of the whole society and become afraid of further interactions. The individual’s personality is another risk factor associated with a social anxiety disorder. Some people may be initially very shy or withdrawn. In addition to that, those who are under the pressure of social demands and have to interact with numerous individuals can start experiencing the discussed symptoms. Finally, the disorder can be connected with particular conditions that attract people’s attention, for instance, if one has facial disfigurement or tremor.

In its turn, a social anxiety disorder can cause a range of complications that worsen people’s well-being if one avoids treatment. Preventing individuals from living normal lives, working, having relationships, and enjoying spending time with friends, social phobia can lower their self-esteem and worsen social skills (Uebelacker, Weisberg, Millman, Yen, & Keller, 2013). As a result, these individuals can hardly be assertive. They are extremely sensitive and afraid of criticism even though they tend to practice negative self-talk. The tendency to isolation can also lead to low academic and employment achievement even if a person is hardworking and clever. Moreover, dealing with negative emotions constantly, individuals may start abusing substances or even commit suicide.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Those individuals who experience symptoms of social anxiety disorders are rarely willing to consult doctors. Nevertheless, they can do it when having early symptoms or receiving assistance from relatives or friends. Anyway, in order to make a diagnosis, a physician is to maintain a physical examination and ensure that there is no other medical condition that can explain and trigger those symptoms one suffers from. One will also interview a consumer to find out as much information about the condition as possible. It is also important to identify those situations when a person feels anxious because it is possible that one has a performance type of social anxiety disorder that is to be discussed in another perspective.

Treatment of social phobia depends on the severity of its symptoms and the way it prevents people from living normal lives. In general, professionals offer psychotherapy and medication intake. They can also be used simultaneously.

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Psychotherapy allows people to learn how to alter negative thoughts and become more confident. It can be conducted both individually and in groups. Such talks are effective for anxiety management. Using cognitive behavioral therapy, a professional can assist a patient in the development of one’s coping skills, discussing how to act in anxiety-including situations. Role-playing tend to be very useful as well as practicing exposures.

As a rule, professionals prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for these patients. For instance, one can take Paxil or Zoloft. Another option is serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Moreover, one can be encouraged to try different antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Beta-blockers can also be useful. In addition to that, alternative medicine, such as herbal supplements targeted at the reduction of anxiety, can be approached. As a rule, a low dose is prescribed initially so that no side effects are experienced by a patient (Mavranezouli, Mayo-Wilson, Dias, Kew, & Clark, 2015). A noticeable improvement can be observed in several weeks or even months.


Thus, it can be concluded that those individuals who have social fears may experience them due to different reasons. In the framework of social anxiety disorder, their emotions become uncontrollable and exaggerated. They become afraid not only of public performances but also of any interactions with other people, especially strangers. In addition to that, they can experience physical symptoms, including tremors or sweating. As a result, these people start avoiding any contact with others. Typically, teenagers are diagnosed with this health issue. Nevertheless, children and adults may deal with social phobia due to the influence of such risk factors as personal characteristics, negative experiences, and increased social demands, etc. Social anxiety disorder can be inherited, caused by abnormal brain structure, and the environment. Unfortunately, it cannot be treated completely. Nevertheless, this chronic condition can be jugulated with the help of appropriate treatment. Both medicines and psychotherapy are extremely advantageous in this way. However, if the treatment plan is not followed, a person can experience a range of complications that may end in suicide.


Leichsenring, F., & Leweke, F. (2017). Social anxiety disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine, 376(23), 2255-2264.

Mavranezouli, I., Mayo-Wilson, E., Dias, S., Kew, K., & Clark, D. (2015). The cost effectiveness of psychological and pharmacological interventions for social anxiety disorder: A model-based economic analysis. PLoS One, 10(10), e0140704.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Social anxiety disorder. Web.

Naragon-Gainey, K., Gallagher, M., & Brown, T. (2014). A longitudinal examination of psychosocial impairment across the anxiety disorders. Psychological Medicine, 44(8), 1691-1700.

National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Social anxiety disorder: More than just shyness. Web.

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Uebelacker, L., Weisberg, R., Millman, M., Yen, S., & Keller, M. (2013). Prospective study of risk factors for suicidal behavior in individuals with anxiety disorders. Psychological Medicine, 43(7), 1465-1474.

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