Social Anxiety Disorder

What is social anxiety?

Social situations can often make people feel anxious and most of the time this does not significantly affect people lives. However, Social anxiety disorder is characterised by intense fear or anxiety when in social situations. In these situations, people believe they will be judged negatively by others in terms of their personal qualities, abilities or performance. Typically this will have caused a problem to the person for 6 months or longer.

Due to the high levels of anxiety experienced in social situations, people are likely to avoid them, and can use alcohol or substances to try to cope with or mask anxiety. This problem can have a significant impact on people’s ability to engage with typical activities of daily living including school, work and socialising. Social anxiety can often be experienced with depression and other anxiety disorders including panic, general anxiety disorder and PTSD.

Social Anxiety is estimated to affect up to 12% of the population.


Can treatment help?

The evidence-based psychological treatment for Social Anxiety is individual Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Due to the nature of social anxiety, people do not always seek help early. In the case of chronic more severe social anxiety, a more intensive course of therapy may be required.


Aims of treatment

An assessment at OHSPIC will include use of standardised questionnaires that assess the severity of the problem, how it impacts on daily life, what thoughts and beliefs are associated with the problem, and an assessment of other difficulties.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) at OHSPIC includes:

• Development of a shared understanding of the problem and goals for treatment
• Developing an understanding of the factors that maintain social anxiety
• Identifying and working on beliefs about social situations, social performance, social skills and perceptions of others
• Agreeing how to approach change and experimenting in social situations
• Addressing any traumatic memories
• Devising a plan to help maintain progress and work towards longer term goals.


OHPSIC will liaise with local teams to ensure that the work on overcoming social anxiety can successfully continue, including offering joint work and supervision. Home visits or out of office sessions will be included in the sessions, and encouraged as part of joint work with local teams.