Harvard Women's Health Watch

What to do about social anxiety disorder

The holidays are coming, with lots of convivial occasions — fun for most, but distressing if you suffer from social phobia.

It's not unusual to feel nervous about meeting new people or attending parties. But if you're so anxious that you dread or avoid such situations, you may have social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia. People with the disorder feel inordinately uneasy and self-conscious in everyday social situations. The source is an unreasonable fear of doing or saying something embarrassing and being negatively judged by others.

If you have social phobia, you might be terrified by just the thought of proposing a toast, or even making small talk. Even if you make yourself attend gatherings, you may feel miserable before, during, and afterward — worrying for days about people's opinion of you. Avoiding these get-togethers is not the answer, of course; it can result in misunderstandings and other personal problems.

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