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Social Anxiety

Social anxiety, also known as social anxiety disorder (SAD) or social phobia, is a mental health condition characterized by an intense and persistent fear of social situations or performance situations where an individual may be scrutinized or judged by others.

What is Social Anxiety?

Social Anxiety, also known as social anxiety disorder (SAD) or social phobia, is a mental health condition characterized by an intense and persistent fear of social situations or performance situations where an individual may be scrutinized or judged by others. People with social anxiety often experience overwhelming anxiety and self-consciousness in everyday social interactions, leading to avoidance of social gatherings or situations that may trigger their fears. This anxiety can extend to various aspects of life, including work, school, or personal relationships, impacting daily functioning and overall quality of life.

The key features of social anxiety include an exaggerated fear of negative evaluation or judgment, intense anxiety about upcoming social events, and a strong desire to avoid such situations. The causes of social anxiety are complex and often involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Traumatic social experiences or a family history of anxiety disorders may contribute to the development of social anxiety. Additionally, imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, play a role in the condition.

Some common forms of social anxiety include: 

Treatment for Social Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) combined with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a highly effective approach for treating Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), helping individuals overcome their fears and discomfort in social situations. At Light On Anxiety, our specialized therapists offer compassionate and evidence-based care tailored to the unique needs of individuals struggling with social anxiety.

In CBT sessions, clients learn to:

  1. Identify and challenge maladaptive thought patterns and beliefs related to social interactions.
  2. Develop coping strategies to manage anxiety and distress.
  3. Gradually confront and tolerate feared social situations through ERP exercises.

ERP involves exposing oneself to progressively challenging social scenarios while refraining from engaging in avoidance behaviors or rituals. By learning to manage their anxiety and gradually face their fears, individuals can improve their social skills and confidence. 


Medication may be considered in the treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), particularly for individuals experiencing moderate to severe symptoms or those who do not fully respond to therapy alone. At Light On Anxiety, our team of psychiatric providers collaborates closely with clients to assess their unique needs and develop personalized medication regimens. S

elective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly prescribed to target symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with social anxiety. Other medications, such as beta-blockers, may be used on an as-needed basis to alleviate acute symptoms of anxiety in social situations.

Our approach to medication management prioritizes safety, efficacy, and collaboration with clients to ensure they receive the most appropriate treatment for their symptoms while minimizing potential side effects.

Integrating CBT + Medication

A combined approach of therapy, including CBT and ERP, and medication management may provide the most comprehensive treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). At Light On Anxiety, we offer integrated treatment plans that address both the psychological and physiological aspects of the disorder.

Our therapists and psychiatric providers work closely together with clients to tailor treatment plans to their individual needs and preferences.

  • CBT and ERP help individuals develop coping skills, challenge negative thoughts, and confront their fears.
  • Medication management targets symptoms of anxiety, providing additional support and relief.

Through this combined approach, we empower clients to overcome social anxiety, improve their social functioning, and enhance their overall quality of life.

Your Unique Path to Freedom From Social Anxiety 

Our goal is to create a treatment plan that aligns with your needs and preferences, recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique.

What are the symptoms of Social Anxiety?

Symptoms of social anxiety can manifest emotionally, physically, and behaviorally. Common symptoms include:

Individuals with social anxiety have a pervasive fear of being negatively evaluated or judged by others in social situations.
Feeling overly self-conscious and being intensely aware of one’s behavior, appearance, or perceived flaws during social interactions.
A strong desire to avoid social situations or enduring them with extreme distress, which can lead to social isolation.
Physical manifestations of anxiety, including trembling or shaking, sweating, blushing, rapid heartbeat, nausea, muscle tension, or difficulty speaking.
Experiencing intense anxiety and worry in anticipation of upcoming social events or situations.
Engaging in negative self-talk and distorted thinking patterns, such as assuming others are judging or criticizing.
Feeling anxious about starting or participating in conversations, often fearing saying something embarrassing or inappropriate.
Significant anxiety and avoidance related to speaking or performing in front of others, even in small groups.
Experiencing discomfort or panic attacks in social situations, sometimes leading to the need to escape or withdraw.
Social anxiety can contribute to feelings of low self-worth and inadequacy, impacting overall self-esteem.

FAQs about Social Anxiety

Social anxiety feels like an overwhelming fear and apprehension in social situations, accompanied by a persistent worry about being judged or negatively evaluated by others. It’s as if an internal spotlight intensifies self-awareness, leading to heightened self-consciousness and a fear of embarrassment or scrutiny. The physical symptoms, such as trembling, sweating, and a racing heart, amplify the distress, creating a challenging and often isolating experience in various social interactions.

Several factors can exacerbate social anxiety. Firstly, negative social experiences, such as instances of embarrassment or criticism, can contribute to heightened fear in future social situations. Additionally, excessive self-focus and rumination on perceived flaws or potential negative outcomes can intensify social anxiety. Lack of social skills or feeling unprepared for social interactions may also contribute, as individuals may worry about saying or doing the wrong things in social settings. Finally, substance use, particularly alcohol, may temporarily alleviate anxiety but can ultimately worsen social anxiety symptoms in the long run.

While social anxiety can be effectively managed and symptoms can significantly improve, it is often considered a chronic condition. With appropriate treatment, including therapy and, in some cases, medication, individuals can learn to cope with social anxiety and lead fulfilling lives. “Cure” might not be a term used, but many people experience substantial relief and improvement in their ability to navigate social situations.

Social anxiety can vary in its course, and it’s not universally predictable. For some individuals, social anxiety may improve with age as they gain life experience and coping skills. However, for others, it may persist or worsen without proper intervention.

More About Treatment for Anxiety

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Light On Anxiety CEO Dr Debra Kissen describes how CBT & ERP helps clients move past OCD and other anxiety disorders.

Learn more about how we can create a custom individual treatment plan to fit your goals.

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