Social anxiety disorder is also known as social phobia. You may not know many people with this condition because they often avoid social situations or do not leave the house unless absolutely necessary. Those with this condition are extremely anxious in social situations and avoid them rather than deal with the pain that comes with these interactions. At its most basic, this is a fear of being judged and teased (even ridiculed) during public and social interactions. Also, a person with social anxiety may have a fear of having a panic attack in a public place, also known as agoraphobia.
Those without social anxiety disorder may experience fear in new social situations from time to time. This is quite normal and is built in to put us at our best. Some people are just born shy, but they do learn to overcome that and attend functions that make them uneasy. However, for others, the fear is so overwhelming that they overcome this by avoidance. This severely limits quality of life and results in loneliness and anxiety. Sometimes, social phobia leads to panic disorder when someone must venture out where they are uncomfortable.
Everyone worries about what new people will think of them. However, those with social anxiety disorder worry about things obsessively. They may think that everyone is staring at their nose, deeming it huge and unsightly when in reality there is nothing wrong with their nose and no one is paying them any mind. They may think they chew food strangely and will not eat in front of anyone. Someone without social anxiety may check their teeth after eating to be sure no food is stuck there, but those with this condition are sure they always have something there and everyone is laughing at them when they are not looking.
They symptoms of this disorder may mimic someone who is simply shy by nature. A person may think everything they say is stupid, so they will not partake in any conversation. They will be quiet, blush very easily, and may stammer quite often when they do attempt to speak to someone they do not know very well. Those with social phobia often rehearse what they are going to say or what they are going to do before they encounter a situation they can not avoid. They may practice walking because they feel they look funny, or spend hours obsessing about what to wear.
There are physical sensations that come with social anxiety disorder. These are shaking of the hands and excessive sweating when confronted with social situations. Those with this condition may have extreme bouts of diarrhea when they think about interactions with others. They may also have confusion and racing thoughts, along with a racing heart beat and shortness of breath. They may have panic attacks and develop severe depression as well.