Reviewed by Melinda (Santa) Gladden, LCSW
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders. According to the American Anxiety and Depression Association or ADAA, 40 million adults in the United States alone are said to have anxiety disorders in any given year, which translates to 18.1% of the adult population in the United States. Anxiety disorders can affect people of all ages, and the impact that anxiety has on work, school, life, and relationships. However, what about social anxiety specifically? How common is it, and is it treatable? If you think that you could have social anxiety or know someone who does, this article may answer some of your questions.
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by anxiety surrounding social situations or interactions. If you look up "social anxiety disorder DSM-5," you will find a group of criteria and guidelines for the diagnosis of social anxiety disorder. Symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include:
- Social withdrawal or avoiding social situations
- Panic attacks
- Shaking or trembling
- Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble focusing or concentrating
- Worry before attending social events
- GI Distress
If you believe that you may have a social anxiety disorder, it is important to reach out to a provider who can give you an accurate evaluation. Most commonly, you will see a psychiatrist for the diagnosis and evaluation of a mental health disorder like social anxiety disorder. However, your general doctor may be able to diagnose you as well. A diagnosis can be beneficial for a variety of reasons, including accommodations at work or school, the ability to explain what you are going through to others, personal confirmation, and more.
How Common Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
If you have social anxiety, you are not alone. Social anxiety disorder is considered very common. Social anxiety disorder affects 6.8% of adults in the United States alone. In addition to that, social anxiety disorder can also affect those under 18, so the total number of those with the disorder is actually higher.
Social anxiety disorder can manifest in people of all ages, and according to Mental Health America, over 75% of those with social anxiety first experience symptoms during their childhood or early teenage years. If your child or teen has social anxiety, you can look for a child and adolescent therapist near you who works with anxiety disorders.
Being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder is not as scary as it may sound. Typically, during an evaluation, a medical professional such as a psychiatrist who is qualified to diagnose mental health conditions will ask you a series of questions and evaluate you based on your answers. It is noninvasive, and there is nothing to be ashamed of if you do end up being diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. Again, it is very common, and help is out there.
Social Anxiety Disorder Facts
Here are some facts about social anxiety disorder, and anxiety disorders in general, that may surprise you:
- Anyone can have social anxiety disorder. Risk factors for social anxiety include a family history of anxiety disorders, a personal history of other physical or mental health conditions, life events, and temperament.
- A number of celebrities have opened up to the media about their experiences with anxiety disorders, including Lady Gaga, Adele, and Selena Gomez.
- According to the ADAA, 36% of people with social anxiety wait over ten years to seek professional help.
- Substance use disorder is a commonly seen comorbidity in those with social anxiety disorder, which is one of the many reasons why it is so important to reach out for help.
Social Anxiety Treatment
Is social anxiety treatable? Yes. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT are common and effective treatments for social anxiety. To find a therapist or counselor who treats social anxiety, you can search for someone in your local area by typing "social anxiety therapist near me" into your search engine, asking your doctor for a referral, looking for a therapist using an online provider directory, contacting your insurance company and asking what they offer or looking on their website to see what they cover, or signing up for an online therapy website like Better Help. If you are having trouble finding the support that you need, do not be afraid to use the provider search tool in the upper right-hand corner of the Mind Diagnostics website.
Despite the efficacy of treatment for anxiety disorders, the ADAA says that, according to a survey, only 36.9% of those who are living with an anxiety disorder received treatment. If you have social anxiety, reaching out for help can be a true game-changer, so do not hesitate to search for the support you need or ask a doctor for a referral to a counselor or therapist. With anxiety, it is understandable if you are nervous about therapy. One of the things that can help those with social anxiety disorder specifically is pursuing remote therapy. This way, you can have phone appointments or video chat appointments with the therapist, and with certain companies, you can actually use a messaging tool to talk to the therapist outside of sessions.
Other Forms of Anxiety Support
Here are some other forms of anxiety support that you can use as a supplement to therapy if you have social anxiety:
Support groups, which you can find either online or in your local area. Support groups are not the same as group therapy, but both support groups and group therapy can be beneficial for those with anxiety disorders. To find a support group near you, ask a provider for a recommendation or search the web for "social anxiety support groups near me" or "anxiety support groups near me." One of the most comforting things about attending a support group is that everyone there is going through something similar, hence why it can be advantageous.
Online forums, which can be helpful for reasons similar to online or in-person support groups. When you use online forums dedicated to social anxiety, you will know that the other users are facing similar struggles. You might see yourself in some of the posts from other users, and that can be powerful. Forums designed for social anxiety specifically include the social anxiety forum on mentalhealthforum.net, the social anxiety support forum at socialanxietysupport.com, and the social phobia world forum at socialphobiaworld.com. Any time you use an online forum or online support group, make sure to check in with yourself to see how it is affecting your mental health. Some forums will be a better fit than others will, and the same is true for support groups.
Workbooks and self-help books can be beneficial for those who want to learn more about social anxiety or those who want to build their toolbox of coping skills. A therapist or counselor who works with anxiety disorders might be able to recommend a workbook or self-help book to you that they think could benefit you. In some cases, a counselor or therapist will also give you at-home exercises to help cope with anxiety. Certain books about anxiety disorders, as well as online articles and other resources, can be helpful for explaining what you are going through to family members, romantic partners, or friends.
Support from loved ones, which might mean support from a close family member, a friend, or romantic partners. Maybe you have a friend with social anxiety that you can talk to, or you have a partner that you want to open up to. If you have, a close loved one who is struggling to understand, consider giving them resources like books or articles, as mentioned above, or taking them to one of your counseling, therapy, or psychiatry sessions. Support from loved ones does not replace mental health treatment from a professional, nor should it be your only form of support if you are struggling, but it is certainly helpful to know that a loved one is making an effort to understand and support you.
Mindfulness activities, which can be particularly helpful during moments where you are currently experiencing anxiety symptoms. This may include breathing exercises, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or something else. You can learn mindfulness activities from a therapist or on your own. There are a ton of resources out there for learning mindfulness activities, including apps that are designed for mindfulness, videos, articles, and audio recordings.
Take the Social Anxiety Disorder Test
Do you think that you might have social anxiety disorder after reading this article? If so, you might benefit from taking the Mind Diagnostics social anxiety disorder test. Although the mind diagnostic social anxiety test is not a replacement for individual medical or mental health advice, nor is it a replacement for a diagnosis, it can give you some insight into your symptoms and what you might be going through. The Mind Diagnostics social anxiety disorder test is free, fast, and confidential. Although social anxiety can affect people of all ages, note that the Mind Diagnostics social anxiety test is for those aged 18 and older.
Click here to take the Mind Diagnostics social anxiety disorder test.
NOTES: I do not think we should promote self-diagnosis by a test. I did enjoy seeing the different online treatment options that have been extremely helpful for those who may not have been aware of it.
- Does not go against what is clinically accepted.
- Does not encourage mindsets or practices that may be harmful to the reader.
- Is factual and up-to-date.