Social anxiety – what is it?

Minor anxiety in situations where one is expected to perform in front of others or be the focus of attention is quite common. Social anxiety is quite common, however it cannot be considered a disorder unless it directly interferes with your life. 

Social anxiety (or social phobia) can be defined as a condition where someone strongly fears situations in which they have to perform or where they are the centre of attention. This fear could become strong enough for people with the condition to completely avoid such situations. Normally, people are afraid of accidentally saying or doing something silly, weird or ridiculous. Often the individuals themselves will understand that such a fear is excessive.

Sometimes social anxiety can manifest in fearing most situations that require communication: strange groups of people; conversations with persons who are older, smarter or hold a higher position; starting conversations in general; going to parties.


  • The most common fear is the fear of public speaking, such as delivering a speech, answering in front of a class, or giving a presentation.

More symptoms:

  • fear of blushing in public;
  • fear of eating in a public place and associated possibly inappropriate behaviour;
  • fear of using public bathrooms;
  • fear of crowds;
  • fear of taking exams.

As a rule, social anxiety develops in late childhood or during adolescence. Even if social anxiety is not specifically treated, it could still get better as you get older. 


As with many other mental health disorders, social anxiety does not have one specific cause; several factors such as heredity, environmental influences, and chemical imbalance in our brains have to coincide. 


Compiled by the youth information portal Teeviit and MTÜ Peaasjad, based on information at

MTÜ Peaasjad promotes mental health, deals with problem prevention, early intervention and reducing stigmatisation in our society.

Published on the youth information portal Teeviit in 2022.

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