A person with social phobia (social anxiety) may experience fear in a number of situations. Stein et al identified common situations that can cause the person anxiety. The authors are from the University of California San Diego and University of Mannitoba.


Study population: 1,956 community-dwelling people with social phobia present in about 7%


Situations that may trigger anxiety in a person with a social phobia:

(1) need for social interaction

(2) need for a performance in front of others


Social interactions may include:

(1) talking with someone and sounding stupid or foolish

(2) interacting with an authority figure

(3) needing to make eye contact

(4) attending a social event (party, etc)

(5) returning something to a store

(6) being introduced to a stranger


Performance situations may include:

(7) public speaking

(8) speaking at a meeting or in a class

(9) walking into a room of people who are already seated

(10) using a bathroom away from home

(11) writing while someone is watching

(12) eating or drinking while someone is watching



• 6 items are from the DSM-IV Social Phobia version 2.1: 1, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12.


Number of Items Feared

Percent of Study Population



1 to 3


4 to 6


>= 7



In general impairment increased with the number of items feared but no specific threshold was identified to define social phobia. Identifying situations that trigger fear can help guide interventions to reduce impairment and to improve social performance.


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