Social anxiety disorder, often referred to as SAD or social phobia, is an anxiety disorder. Characteristics of social anxiety include fear or intense anxiety in social situations, self-consciousness in social situations, obsessive self-defeating thoughts, panic attacks, and avoidance of social situations. Social anxiety often occurs alongside other psychiatric disorders, especially depression or other anxiety disorders, and sufferers are also more likely to self-medicate by abusing alcohol or illicit drugs. Some people with social anxiety make life choices based on their perceived social limitations, meaning that social anxiety can have severe and long-term effects in all arenas of life, including relationships, education, and work. Treatment for social anxiety includes cognitive behavioural therapy and medication.
One of the most striking cognitive symptoms of social anxiety is obsessive thoughts. People with social phobia feel constant anxiety about how they appear to others, or about what others think of them (or will in the future). These thought patterns are overwhelmingly negative, and they are often inaccurate and self-defeating. For example, a person with social anxiety may dwell for days or even weeks on a certain remark or situation, or spend hours reviewing their interactions to find behavior which they consider embarrassing or not normal.
People with social anxiety are often obsessed with seeming “normal,” or the perceived fact that they are “weird,” or “not normal”. Since the cognitive symptoms of social anxiety disorder feature cognitive distortion (exaggerated thought patterns which focus on irrational beliefs), they are often treated using cognitive behavioural therapy, which focusses on eliminating unhelpful thoughts and problem-solving).