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Social anxiety fact sheet


Social anxiety is different for each person, and may manifest itself in different ways. Below is the diagnostic criteria.

  • 1.       The person has fear or anxiety in specific social settings in which they feel judged noticed or observed. In adults, this can include dating, meeting someone, or speaking in class or at work in a meeting.
  • 2.       The person fears that they will display that anxiety and be judged or rejected.
  • 3.       The interaction provokes distress and interactions are avoided or endured painfully.
  • 4.       The anxiety is disproportionate to the situation and causes distress and impairment.
  • 5.       The anxiety isn’t due to drug use, a medication side effect, or a medical disorder or another mental health disorder
  • 6.       If another medical condition is present, the anxiety is not due to that condition or is disproportionate.
  • 7.       The anxiety must be present for six months or longer.

In the past it was required that the person with anxiety recognize that it is out of proportion to the triggering event, but with the most recent diagnostic change, only the clinician needs to see this.


Social anxiety is treated in a variety of ways.The model I use approaches amxiety  from the perspective of how your beliefs effect your behaviors.

False Beliefs

People with social anxiety believe they are inadequate, don’t have appropriate skills or that people will judge them, and these beliefs are usually false.

Fear of physical symptoms

People with anxiety also believe that something bad will happen when they have feelings of panic or discomfort caused by anxiety, when they will not. They believe that they cannot handle the uncomfortable feelings. This is not true.

Avoidance behaviors

In turn people who have anxiety engage in avoidance behaviors that make them feel comfortable in the short term but worsen their anxiety in the long term. Once you understand this cycle you can make different choices.

Therapy for social anxiety focuses on:

  • ·         Identifying what you are believing and how you are behaving that is leading you away from making the choices you want to make to be happier.
  • ·         Changing your beliefs and then your behaviors so you can begin to make different choices that help you reach your goals.
  •  ·         Building new skills to replace the avoidant behaviors.

Therapy may require behavioral exercises, developing a hierarchy of your fears, breathing exercises, and journaling to examine your thoughts and behaviors. It can be uncomfortable and challenging at times. Medication may also be suggested as it can be an effective adjunct for therapy. 

 Fact Sheet Download and Print

Click  here to download  the printable pdf version of this page to have your own copy . 

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