Social Anxiety Disorder

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?


Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a form of anxiety that occurs in certain social situations. 


For some people, this anxiety is related to very specific situations, such as public speaking or eating in public. Other people may experience social anxiety in more general situations, when meeting new people, or when they need to be assertive and feel judged, by contributing in meetings or hosting a party.


What are the symptoms of SAD?


When facing a feared situation, people with SAD may feel extremely anxious or experience panic attacks. People with SAD may end up avoiding social situations to avoid these responses.


Typically, those with SAD are concerned about: 


Doing something embarrassing


Thinking others will think badly of you


Thinking others will notice how nervous or anxious you are


Who gets SAD?


SAD most commonly develops in teenagers and rarely develops in people over 25. Nearly 5 in 100 people develop SAD every year.


Some factors that may influence a person experiencing SAD are:


Biological and psychological vulnerability to being anxious about social evaluation


Exposure to stressful social or performance situations


Unpleasant childhood experiences (e.g. conflict between parents, death of someone, poverty).


Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder 


There are effective treatments available for SAD. For most, psychological treatments are effective. Social skills training and assertiveness training can also be useful. In very severe cases treatment may also include medication taken under the guidance of a medical practitioner.


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is an effective structured psychological treatment for SAD.


CBT for SAD helps you to learn how to face feared social situations, change any unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and behaviours that contribute to and maintain social anxiety. It also teaches techniques include ways of reducing social anxiety like breathing and relaxation training.


Where can I receive treatment for Social Anxiety?


There are a number of ways you can access psychological treatment for social anxiety and you can choose a way that works best for you. This can be in-person with a mental health professional, or online with the support of a program.


By registering, you can access Mental Health Online’s free and comprehensive social anxiety assessment and treatment. You may like to do this by yourself in our self-guided option, but you can also opt for our free therapist-assisted program via email, chat, or video.


Explore other treatment options


For further information about treatment options and assistance:


Visit your GP


Explore other online therapies at Head to Health


Find a Psychologist through the Australian Psychological Society’s referral service


Contact your local community health centre

Last Updated : 22-Dec-2021