Social anxiety is anxiety (emotional discomfort, fear, apprehension, or worry) about social situations, interactions with others, and being evaluated or scrutinized by other people. The difference between Social Anxiety and normal apprehension of social situations is that social anxiety involves an intense feeling of fear in social situations and especially situations that are unfamiliar or in which you will be watched or evaluated by others. The feeling of fear is so strong that in these types of situations you may be so worried that you feel anxious just thinking about them and will go to great lengths to avoid them.
According to the US National Comorbidity Survey, social anxiety is the number one most common anxiety disorder and is also the third most common mental disorder in the U.S. An estimated 19.2 million Americans suffer from social anxiety disorder and it can occur at any time but most often it surfaces in adolescence, early adulthood, or even early childhood. Statistically it is also more common in women than in men.
It occurs for different reasons. Developmental social anxiety occurs early in childhood as a normal part of the development of social functioning, and is a stage that most children grow out of, but problem or chronic social anxiety may persist (perhaps unnoticed) until adolescence or may surface in adulthood. People vary in how often they experience social anxiety and in which kinds of situations.