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What is social anxiety?

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Quick Answer

Social anxiety is an intense fear of social interactions and situations that leads to avoidance of these activities or to a panic attack, according to WebMD. Social anxiety is a problem if it interferes with a person’s daily life or routine, such as at school, work or in personal relationships, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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People with social anxiety fear that they are being closely watched and judged by others and are anxious about humiliating themselves. They often over analyze a social situation and others’ reactions to their “performance” after the situation is over to identify areas where they may have made an embarrassing mistake, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Other symptoms of social anxiety include being overly self-conscious; avoiding the spotlight; fear of interacting with strangers; worrying that others notice the anxiety symptoms; the avoidance of performing routine activities, such as eating, working or speaking, in front of others; anxiety over visiting a public place, such as the mall or a restaurant; and even fear of using a public toilet because strangers may be around, according to WebMD. People with social anxiety may worry over a social event days or weeks before it happens, also known as anticipatory anxiety.

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