Social Anxiety Disorder

3 young adults, sitting on grass laughingWhat is Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)?

SAD is a form of anxiety that occurs in certain social situations

Typically the fear in SAD concerns:                 

  • Doing something embarrassing
  • Thinking others will think badly of you
  • Thinking others will notice how nervous or anxious you are

For some people this anxiety might be related to very specific situations, such as public speaking or eating or writing in public. For other people it might relate to more general situations such as meeting new people, being assertive or those situations when you are feeling judged; such as when contributing in meetings or hosting a party.


When people with SAD face their feared situations they feel extremely anxious and sometimes experience panic attacks. Fear can lead to avoidance of the feared situation. For example, if a person is fearful in groups they will make excuses not to attend group functions to avoid the feelings of anxiety that are triggered by this situation.


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).


The development of SAD may be a result of:

  • 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).


Last Updated : 22-Sep-2013