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Social Anxiety Disorder: the Fear of Making Mistakes


Social anxiety disorder is a condition characterized by the intense, persistent, unreasonable, and overwhelming fear of social situations that are based on false and negative beliefs about other people’s opinions (Antony, Antony, & Rowa, 2008). People with this disorder experience high levels of nervousness and self-consciousness that arise from the fear of being judged and criticized. The fear of making mistakes, being embarrassed, and facing humiliation makes people with the disorder stay away from social situations (Starcevic, 2009). The disorder is more serious in highly sensitive people who lack social skills. Social anxiety disorder is a treatable condition that, if ignored, can negatively affect the lives of victims.

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Neuroscientists and sociologists have identified several factors that could cause social anxiety disorder. They include genetics, social experiences, cultural influences, substance abuse, and psychological factors. There is a high risk of developing the disorder if a family member has the disorder. Moreover, overprotective and hypercritical parents contribute to the development of the disorder. Negative social experiences trigger the disorder, especially in highly sensitive people (Hofmann & DiBartolo, 2010). The disorder is also caused by cultural influences such as negative attitudes toward shyness, solitude, and avoidance of social situations. Variations in parenting styles have also been shown to induce social anxiety disorder. The majority of the people with the disorder describe their parents as overly critical and overprotective. They are not affectionate enough and overemphasize the importance of avoiding social situations that involve strangers (Hofmann & DiBartolo, 2010).


The most common symptoms include intense anxiety in social situations, avoidance of social situations, confusion, difficulty breathing, palpitations, shaking, pounding heart, muscle tension, nervousness, upset stomach, shaking, and intense sweating (Antony et al., 2008). In children, the disorder is characterized by throwing tantrums, clinging to parents, crying, and avoiding people.


Physicians use various forms of questionnaires to diagnose the disorder. For instance, they use the Social Phobia Inventory or the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale to diagnose and determine the severity of the disorder (Starcevic, 2009). Diagnosis involves extensive examination because of the need to rule out other possible disorders that have similar symptoms.


The main treatment methods for social anxiety disorder include psychotherapy and medication. Studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective first-line treatment for social anxiety disorder (Antony et al., 2008). It involves helping individuals change destructive patterns of behavior and thought. For instance, they are taught how to change their attitudes, beliefs, and perspectives regarding people’s opinions and social situations (Stein, 2009). Patients are taught information-processing skills and mechanisms that help them adapt to various social situations and contexts (Hofmann & DiBartolo, 2010). Antidepressants are the first-choice medication in the treatment of social anxiety disorder. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been shown to cause significant improvements in patients with the disorder (Stein, 2009). However, they are avoided by some people because of their side effects that include blurred vision, low sex drive, indigestion, constipation, agitation, dizziness, and insomnia (Stein, 2009). Other drugs used include benzodiazepines and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). In certain cases, anticonvulsant drugs are also used.


Social anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by an intense and overwhelming fear of social situations, which makes individuals unable to function properly in the execution of daily activities. People with the disorder fear that they will be judged and criticized by others. As a result, they avoid social interactions. Untreated, the disorder can make life very difficult and unbearable. Symptoms include palpitations, avoidance of social situations, sweating, and stammering. Psychotherapy and medication are effective treatment remedies that are commonly used by physicians.


Antony, M. A., Antony, M. M., & Rowa, K. (2008). Social anxiety disorder. New York, NY: Hogrefe Publishing.

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Hofmann, S. G., & DiBartolo, P. M. (2010). Social anxiety: Clinical, developmental, and social perspectives. New York, NY: Academic Press.

Starcevic, V. (2009). Anxiety disorders in adults: A clinical guide. London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Stein, M. B. (2009). Oxford handbook of anxiety and related disorders. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA.

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