We all may have encountered it from time to time, but what is social anxiety really? Not be confused with shyness or reservedness, social anxiety is a mental health disorder marked by a phobia of interactions with other people. It can affect anyone, even celebrities and public figures.
According to Mayo Clinic, people who have social anxiety experience intense, persistent fear and anxiety around socializing that interferes with their work, relationships, daily routines, or other activities. (The persistent nature of these symptoms is key here; if you occasionally get nervous in big-group settings, you probably won’t meet the diagnostic criteria for social anxiety disorder.) They often worry about embarrassing themselves during social interactions, being negatively judged by others, or talking to strangers. These fears may cause them to anxiously anticipate situations where they are the center of attention — or to avoid these scenarios entirely.
Social anxiety is sometimes associated with physical symptoms, such as blushing, sweating, shaking, or an elevated heart rate. The presence of these symptoms can exacerbate a person’s mental distress.
If you have social anxiety, you’re not alone: This disorder affects an estimated 15 million Americans, per the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA). Luckily, there are plenty of treatment options available. Many people choose to go to therapy or take medications, such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, or beta blockers.
People who have social anxiety may come off as shy or aloof, so this disorder is still misunderstood by many. That’s why a growing number of celebrities who have this disorder — from Big Little Lies star Shailene Woodley, to Riverdale alum Cole Sprouse — have spoken publicly about their experiences.
Keep reading to learn more about eight celebrities who’ve talked about their struggles with social anxiety.