Social Anxiety Disorder

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

People with Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) experience considerable anxiety and fear when in social or performance situations, where the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or they fear being scrutinised and judged by others, and they often avoid social interactions.

What are the symptoms?

  • board room meetingPeople with SAD fear acting in a way that they believe will be embarrassing or humiliating or that may reveal physical signs of anxiety (e.g. sweating, blushing)
  • When people with SAD face feared social situations their physical symptoms may take the form of a panic attack (a discrete period of intense and sudden fear, apprehension or terror, with physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, blushing, trembling, sweating and faintness)
  • A person with SAD usually recognises that their fear is unreasonable or excessive
  • People may fear specific aspects of social situations, such as writing or eating in public, using public toilets, and being observed at work
  • While many people show signs of shyness and inhibition, people with SAD can experience considerable disruption to their daily lives and quality of life, with some people being unable to go out in public or facing intense distress when they do enter social situations
  • People with SAD experience intense distress or they have difficulties maintaining their normal routine, including work, study, relationships and other social interactions

Who gets Social Anxiety Disorder?

  • SAD usually develops in adolescence and it is uncommon for SAD to develop after the age of 25
  • SAD has been found to be present in 4.7% of Australian adults over a 12-month period (nearly 5 in 100)
  • Factors that contribute to the development of SAD may include a biological and psychological vulnerability to being anxious about social evaluation, exposure to stressful social or performance situations, and developmental factors
Page last updated 22-Dec-2009