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Feeling anxious or worried

A girl chewing her nail.

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It can help you cope with a hard situation. For example, anxiety helps push you to study for a test or can give you a boost when you’re on stage in front of the whole school. But when anxiety becomes a strong dread of everyday situations, it can be harmful.

People with anxiety disorders feel very fearful and unsure. Most people feel anxious about something for a short time now and again, but people with anxiety disorders feel this way most of the time. Their fears and worries make it hard for them to do everyday tasks. About 18 percent of American adults have anxiety disorders. Children and teens also may have them.

Social phobia

Social phobia is a kind of anxiety. It is a strong fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed. This fear can be so strong that it gets in the way of going to work or school or doing other everyday things.

People with social phobia are afraid of doing common things in front of other people. For example, they might be afraid to eat or drink in front of other people. All of us have been a little bit nervous, at one time or another, about things like meeting new people or giving a speech. But people with social phobia worry about these and other things for weeks before they happen.

Most of the people who have social phobia know that they shouldn't be as afraid as they are, but they can't control their fear. Sometimes, they end up staying away from places or events where they think they might have to do something that will embarrass them. That can keep them from doing the everyday tasks of living and from enjoying times with family and friends. If social phobia is getting in the way of you enjoying life, talk to a doctor or nurse. It can be treated with talk therapy and/or medicine.

There are some positive things about social phobia, too. People with social phobia may be really great at writing or using computers. Also, people with social phobia are often good at judging other people’s actions.

People with social phobia:

  • Are very anxious about being with other people
  • Are very self-conscious in front of other people (they are very worried about how they will act)
  • Are very afraid of being embarrassed in front of other people
  • Are very afraid that other people will judge them
  • Worry for days or weeks before an event where other people will be
  • Stay away from places where there are other people
  • Have a hard time making friends and keeping friends
  • May have body symptoms when they are with other people, such as:
    • Blushing
    • Heavy sweating
    • Trembling
    • Nausea
    • Having a hard time talking

When does social phobia start?

Social phobia usually starts during the child or teen years, usually at about age 13. Symptoms last at least 6 months. Anxiety can be treated with medicine and talk therapy. Many people feel much better with treatment.

How can you tell your parents you feel anxious?

It takes courage to tell your parents that you are feeling anxious or depressed. But remember – your parents can find you the help you may need to get through tough times.

The best way to get a conversation started is to find a time when you are together and not distracted. Driving in the car may be a good time, or maybe after dinner. If you have younger siblings, wait until they are put in bed so you can have your mom or dad’s full attention. You may even need to schedule a time. Try saying, “Mom and Dad, I have something I’d like to talk about. I think I am feeling anxious (or depressed). Can we sit and talk after dinner?”

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your mom or dad about feeling anxious or depressed, you could also try writing a letter. You could even send an email. Sometimes it is easier to get the words out when you write them down.

Read more about anxiety in these articles:


Content last reviewed May 18, 2010
Page last updated October 31, 2013