It’s the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations: Social anxiety disorder can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it. This disorder is not simply shyness that has been inappropriately medicalized.
Symptoms may be so extreme that they disrupt daily life. People with this disorder, also called social phobia, may have few or no social or romantic relationships, making them feel powerless, alone, or even ashamed.
- About 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder
- Typical age of onset: 13 years old
- 36 percent of people with social anxiety disorder report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help
Although they recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder feel powerless against their anxiety. They are terrified they will humiliate or embarrass themselves.
The anxiety can interfere significantly with daily routines, occupational performance, or social life, making it difficult to complete school, interview and get a job, and have friendships and romantic relationships.
Social anxiety disorder usually begins in childhood or adolescence, and children are prone to clinging behavior, tantrums, and even mutism.