Social anxiety occurs in situations where you fear perceived judgment from others. Trying certain types of therapy, medication, and coping techniques may help you.

Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, can cause problems interacting with others or completing daily tasks.

Being in situations where you may face criticism or judgment may feel so overwhelming that you avoid putting yourself in those situations. For example, you might avoid leaving your house because you don’t want to be uncomfortable.

While it can be overwhelming, treatments and coping strategies used to reduce social anxiety are available. You’re not alone.

A combination of genetic and environmental factors may cause social anxiety. Research from 2022 suggests that the exact causes of social anxiety are unknown.

Environmental factors

Your environment may be a potential cause of social anxiety. One study of 1,345 Chinese adolescents from migrant families found a positive correlation between social anxiety and overprotective parenting styles.

Additionally, the researchers suggest that overprotective parenting leads to dependence. And 2023 research indicates that this style of parenting can also lead to a lack of confidence in adolescents.

Individuals may also be prone to social anxiety if exposed to negative experiences like bullying. A 2018 study of 668 middle school children found that those who were exposed to bullying or cyberbullying had higher levels of social anxiety than those who weren’t exposed to bullying.

Genetic factors

Genetic factors that cause social anxiety remain largely unknown. Research from 2018 examining the genetic risk factors for social anxiety found that social anxiety is heritable.

The researchers suggest a correlation between introverted traits and high social anxiety.

There may be a genetic link between neuroticism and social anxiety. But further research is needed to support this possible connection.

2020 research suggests social anxiety is linked to a larger volume in the amygdala, the part of the brain that deals with emotions and detects threat cues.

This research was based on 242 participants with an age range of 7-60 years old. There were no noted amygdala volume differences with age.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR), some typical symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • anxiety in situations where you could face criticism
  • fear or worry in situations such as interacting with strangers
  • feeling anxious when you have to give a presentation or speech
  • increased anxiety when eating or drinking in front of others
  • social situations where there may be judgment from others almost always incite anxiety
  • the fear of others is disproportionate to the actual threat
  • avoidance of situations that could cause anxiety or an unwelcome interaction
  • causes significant distress
  • the anxiety can cause problems with work, relationships, school, or other important areas of life

The DSM-5-TR also mentions that these symptoms must be present for six months or more to meet the criteria of Social Anxiety Disorder. But you can experience social anxiety without meeting the requirements of the disorder.

In children, the symptoms of social anxiety may look different. Children’s anxiety must occur around peers and not only adults. Another critical difference noted in the DSM-5-TR is that children may cry, freeze, or throw tantrums when anxious.

If you experience social anxiety, resources are available to help you find some relief. Therapy and medication are both recommended for the treatment of social anxiety.

Therapy for social anxiety

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are forms of psychotherapy that are useful in the treatment of social anxiety disorder.

CBT can assist you with recognizing unhelpful patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In CBT, you’re working to replace these unhelpful patterns with more beneficial patterns to decrease anxiety and panic. If you’re engaged in CBT, you may also use exposure therapy techniques to help with anxiety.

Exposure therapy may help you face your fears in a controlled environment. The goal of exposure therapy is to decrease avoidance of the anxiety trigger.

ACT isn’t focused on symptom reduction for social anxiety but instead helps you focus on living a more meaningful life. ACT enables you to detach and accept things outside of your control and, as a byproduct, can reduce social anxiety.

Medication for social anxiety

According to 2018 research, common medications for social anxiety include:

Although medication helps with anxiety, it’s not an effective final treatment option. But combining antidepressants with therapy can provide many benefits.

If you’re considering medication for social anxiety, speaking with a healthcare professional can help you discover treatment options that best suit your needs.

In addition to seeking therapy and medication, you may also consider adopting new techniques in your day-to-day life that can reduce social anxiety. Try to start small as you integrate these practices into your daily routines.


A 2021 systematic review suggests that physical activity may reduce social anxiety in adults. You may find benefits from exercise and find that it may lower overall social anxiety. Finding an exercise routine that you enjoy may be helpful.

Social skills training

Social skills training is a common intervention for individuals with social anxiety. Social skills training utilizes behavioral techniques to teach individuals social skills. In social skills training, you may learn about eye contact, how to prepare for a speech, and practice conversations with others.

One research study of 108 adolescents found that social skills training reduced the number of social interactions that were feared or avoided. This research suggests that social skills training can help cope with the avoidance part of social anxiety.

Mind-body interventions

Mind-body interventions are often utilized in treating anxiety disorders but often not as a standalone method. A recent research review found that for overall anxiety, there is limited evidence that yoga, mindfulness, and applied relaxation can all help treat anxiety disorders.

If you have social anxiety, you may consider one of these methods to reduce overall debilitating anxiety.

Social anxiety occurs when there is a severe and persistent fear of social interactions where you may be subject to criticism. Social anxiety often leads to avoidance of the anxiety-provoking situation and can be very distressing to the person experiencing it.

Treatment such as therapy, medication, or both is available if you have a social anxiety disorder. In addition, some lifestyle changes can help reduce social anxiety.

If you want to read others’ stories about social anxiety or watch self-help videos, consider visiting the National Social Anxiety Center for support.