What is Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)?

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a condition where someone is very scared or worried about being embarrassed or humiliated in a social situation (also known as social phobia). It is the second most common anxiety disorder. It is also more common in women and young people.

What are the risk factors and signs/symptoms of SAD?

Some factors increase the chance that you may develop Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). These factors include:

  • Having a personal or family history of anxiety or mood disorder
  • Being female
  • Being middle-aged
  • Having had childhood trauma or stress
  • Chronic medical illnesses (like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or asthma)
  • Living an unhealthy lifestyle

Signs and symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) include:

  • Feeling very scared or worried during social situations that last for 6 months or more
  • Being more scared than the situation requires
  • Feeling like everyone is watching and judging you
  • Wanting to avoid social situations because of fear and anxiety about being embarrassed

How can you manage or treat SAD?

To help people with mild social anxiety, healthcare providers can try a kind of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, you can talk to a therapist alone or in a group. This can help you feel better and improve your symptoms.

Healthcare providers may suggest using medicine to treat SAD, which is called drug therapy. Your healthcare provider may recommend one of two types of medicine. The first type is called antidepressants. The second type is benzodiazepine agents. These medications require a prescription from a healthcare provider.

In the case that you have moderate to severe social anxiety, both CBT and drug therapy can be used in combination to improve symptoms.

How can you prevent and screen for SAD?

Healthcare providers can use different tests to check for and treat social anxiety disorder in kids and adults. It’s easier to stop SAD before it gets bad when someone is a child. It can be harder to stop SAD when they’re an adult, and it’s already been happening for a while.

Prevention in children: If parents help their children when they first show signs of anxiety, they may be less likely to have anxiety problems when they grow up.

Screening in children: Healthcare providers can perform tests on children to find if the children are at risk developing anxiety and to start the correct treatment. These tests include:

  • Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders (SCARED)
  • Social Worries Questionnaire (SWQ)
  • Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory (SPAI)-Brief
  • Social Anxiety Scale (SAS)

Screening in adults: The screening Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) can test the existence of social anxiety symptoms over the span of two weeks.


Mention your symptoms or desired screenings to your healthcare provider to prevent or treat SAD. Keep in mind that most of these screenings are performed by healthcare professionals.


  1. DynaMed. Social Anxiety Disorder. EBSCO Information Services. Accessed March 20, 2023. https://www.dynamed.com/condition/social-anxiety-disorder
  2. Social anxiety disorder. Social Anxiety Disorder (Symptoms) | Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety | Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.med.upenn.edu/ctsa/social_anxiety_symptoms.html#symptoms