Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a long-lasting and overwhelming fear of social situations.
It's a common problem that usually starts during the teenage years.
For some people it gets better as they get older, although for many it does not go away on its own.
It can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life, but there are ways to help you deal with it.
Social anxiety is more than shyness. It's an intense fear that does not go away and affects everyday activities, self-confidence, relationships and work or school life.
Many people occasionally worry about social situations, but someone with social anxiety feels overly worried before, during and after them.
You may have social anxiety if you:
dread everyday activities, such as meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, working or shopping
avoid or worry a lot about social activities, such as group conversations, eating with company and parties
always worry about doing something you think is embarrassing, such as blushing, sweating or appearing incompetent
find it difficult to do things when others are watching – you may feel like you're being watched and judged all the time
fear criticism, avoid eye contact or have low self-esteem
often have symptoms such as feeling sick, sweating, trembling or a pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
have panic attacks, where you have an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety, usually only for a few minutes