The generalized type of social anxiety (social phobia disorder) is a severe and often disabling form of shyness that affects approximately 5% of the general population. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by the fear of being observed or evaluated by others. Individuals with social anxiety fear that they will say or do something to embarrass of humiliate themselves or that others will notice that they are anxious.

Consequently, people with social anxiety often avoid situations where such scrutiny might take place or they endure them with intense distress. Not surprisingly, this can result in impaired functioning and reduced quality of life. Patients with social anxiety may have few friendships, experience trouble dating, drop out of school, reject promotions at work, become demoralized and depressed, abuse alcohol, and develop other psychiatric symptoms.