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What is Social Anxiety?

What is social anxiety? Social anxiety is a condition where you become very anxious when you feel scrutinized by others in a social situation. It's a persistent and marked fear of situations where you're exposed to unfamiliar people or potential scrutiny by others and where you fear humiliation or embarrassment.

The criteria for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) or social phobia include:

  • A persistent and marked fear of social or performance situations linked to fears of being humiliated or embarassed
  • Exposure to the fearful situation reliably provokes anxiety and may take the form of panic attacks
  • The anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger or threat
  • The person either avoids the fearful situation(s) or the experience of the situation(s) creates intense anxiety or distress
  • There is significant interference of normal routine, occupational or academic functioning, or social interactions or marked distress about having the phobia.
  • Typically lasts for 6-months or more

Watch Danielle's experience with social anxiety below. She answers "what is social anxiety" (at counter 2:58).

Discuss "what is social anxiety" with others who have social anxiety

Check out the free social anxiety group and chat room at

Where to get help for social anxiety

Talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist about your specific situation, and work with them to develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific situation. See when to see a Psychologist and when to see a Psychiatrist.

Check out the articles on how to find a therapist and finding treatment centers and online anxiety help.

Gerrig, Richard J. & Philip G. Zimbardo. Psychology And Life, 16/e. Published by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA. Copyright (c) 2002 by Pearson Education. Reprinted by permission of the publisher at

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.