How To Manage Social Anxiety Disorder: Five Tips To Consider

Updated December 25, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

For people with social anxiety disorder, interacting with others in social situations can bring intense fear and anxiety, and can lead to avoiding the situation altogether. This discomfort can cause significant distress and disrupt your life in a variety of ways. In this article, we’ll give an overview of social anxiety disorder and its symptoms, and we’ll offer five tips to consider for trying to manage it.  

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Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also called social phobia, isn’t just shyness. It is an intense fear of social situations and being judged by others. As defined by the American Psychological Association, it is an anxiety disorder characterized by “extreme and persistent social anxiety or performance anxiety and that causes significant distress or prevents participation in social activities.” Individuals with social anxiety disorder may avoid the social situations that cause this fear or handle the situation but endure extreme discomfort.  

Prevalence Of Social Anxiety Disorder

If you have social anxiety disorder, you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, social anxiety disorder affects around 15 million adults in the U.S. And according to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 12.1% of U.S. adults experience the disorder at some point in their lives. 

Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder

Some of the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include: 

  • Having physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing, nausea, trembling, rapid heart rate, and dizziness when interacting with others

  • Having a rigid body posture and finding it difficult to make eye contact when socializing

  • Fearing being judged

  • Being overly self-conscious

  • Over-analyzing your performance after social interactions

  • Avoiding social gatherings, situations that lead to confrontation, or situations where you are the center of attention

  • Having a difficult time starting conversations and being very afraid of talking to strangers.

Although some symptoms may vary, the central feature is the persistent fear of social interactions. 

Tips For Managing Social Anxiety Disorder

Living with social anxiety disorder can feel very challenging and isolating at times, but there are ways to manage it and find relief. Included below are a few tips to consider. 

  1. Lean On People You Trust

If you have social anxiety disorder, you don’t have to handle it all on your own. While asking for help can take courage, it may make a huge difference. Consider confiding in someone you trust and asking them for help in social situations. For instance, you might ask if they could:

  • Join you for a social event,

  • Accompany you to seek professional help,

  • Go with you to a support group meeting, or

  • Simply be there for you to talk with and have a nice time together. 

If you have people in your life that you feel comfortable with, it may help to spend more time with them and let them know you might need a little support sometimes. Spending more time with people you trust may also help you feel more at ease in other social situations.

  1. Join A Support Group

Some people with social anxiety disorder may benefit from joining a support group. There can often be something comforting and helpful about connecting with other people who are experiencing similar challenges. Sometimes, this may help you to not feel so alone anymore. And, working alongside them as they make progress may help to give you hope and motivation on your own journey. This can also feel like a safe place to impart concerns and ask for help, as others are in a similar position. 

While being in a room full of strangers may at first be very anxiety-inducing, it may help to remember that many of them likely feel the same. Having the courage to go to a meeting or more can be a positive step in the right direction.

  1. Start Small And Celebrate Your Wins

Navigating social situations with social anxiety disorder can be very overwhelming, but you don’t have to tackle your anxiety all at once. It may be helpful to start small, and then consistently recognize your successes. 

For instance, you could start by trying to speak up a little more in work meetings, making small talk with the cashier when picking up your coffee, or saying hello to a new neighbor. Then, however small or large the win may be, be sure to give yourself some praise for the effort you put in and celebrate yourself. This may help you build confidence over time and recognize the progress you’re making. 

  1. Be Kind To Yourself

It can be frustrating when situations feel hard and overwhelming, but remember to be kind to yourself. Progress takes time, and social anxiety disorder is not just shyness—it is an anxiety disorder that can cause serious disruptions to your life. 

Try to show yourself kindness and compassion, and try not to hold yourself to unrealistic expectations or put yourself under unfair pressure. Plus, if you are unfairly hard on yourself if you “make a mistake” in a social situation, it may worsen your anxiety. Give yourself some grace and patience as you try to move forward. 

  1. Seek Treatment

If you have social anxiety disorder, you may consider seeking professional treatment. Common treatments for social anxiety disorder include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is frequently used as an effective treatment for anxiety. 

With CBT, a therapist helps the patient examine and replace the patterns of negative thoughts in their head that may be underlying their condition. Sessions can also involve learning coping skills such as relaxation exercises, so that when the person starts feeling their anxiety again, they can cope with it more effectively. 

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How Online Therapy Can Help

Individuals with social anxiety disorder may feel afraid or intimidated to go to a new place and interact with strangers in an office in order to have therapy. In these cases, online therapy can be especially beneficial. With online therapy through BetterHelp, you can meet with a therapist wherever you have an internet connection, including the comfort of your home—so you don’t need to leave your house if you don’t want to. 

Research has shown that online therapy is an effective option for individuals with social anxiety disorder. For instance, one research study compared the effectiveness of internet CBT with face-to-face CBT for social phobia. The researchers found that both types delivered significant progress, and there were “no significant differences in outcome between the Internet and face-to-face groups,” allowing them to conclude that internet CBT and face-to-face CBT “were equally effective” for social phobia. 


Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is characterized by intense fear and anxiety around social situations and being judged by others. If this is something you’re experiencing, you are not alone. You may consider some of the strategies above for coping with social anxiety disorder, and for further support, an online therapist can help. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What causes social anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder may have a variety of causes and may involve a complex combination of factors. Possible causes may include inherited traits, brain structure, childhood experiences, or negative social experiences. There may also be some factors that can increase the risk of social anxiety disorder, such as family history, new work demands or social situations, negative situations growing up such as bullying, or having a physical appearance or condition that draws excess attention. 

How do you stop social anxiety?

Can I get rid of social anxiety by myself?

What causes social anxiety?

Social anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, including family history, new work or social situations, negative situations growing up (bullying, etc), or having a physical disability that draws attention (ex: cleft palette). 

Some authorities say current events, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, can help trigger social anxiety. One of the negative consequences of the need to self-isolate, especially for people who self-isolated for a long period of time or who are already prone to anxiety, is that they were unable to keep their social skills “up to date,” resulting in them feeling anxiety. 

What social anxiety feels like?

Am I just shy or do I have social anxiety?

How do I stop being shy?

How can I be more socially confident?

Is social anxiety serious?

Are there pills for social anxiety?

Are you born with social anxiety?

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