Talking to Your Doctor About Social Anxiety

A doctor and patient talk in a hospital.

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Many people with symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD) never receive an official diagnosis because they're afraid to talk to their doctor about how they're feeling. You may feel like you don't know what to say or how to explain it, or maybe you even feel embarrassed about your social anxiety. You're not alone; many people with social anxiety feel similarly.

It is important to realize that anxiety is very common—almost 20% of U.S. adults experience at least one anxiety disorder each year and more than 30% will experience some type of anxiety disorder during their lifetime.

Unfortunately, research suggests that only about 20% of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment. You don't have to one of those numbers. Here are some tips to help you talk to your doctor.

Write It Down

One good solution to this problem is to present your doctor with a case summary instead of trying to verbally explain your symptoms. In general, a case summary is a concise description of your history of symptoms. The summary should be detailed but short enough that your doctor can read through it quickly.

If you decide to do a case summary, here are the key points you should address:

  • Your background information: Highlight any important family mental health history, relevant family and social relationships, your history with drugs and alcohol (if applicable), challenges you have with everyday life, your goals, and how you cope with your symptoms.
  • Your symptoms: Make a list of all the symptoms you experience, whether physical, emotional, or sensory, as well as how they make you feel and/or what they make you think.

Even if you don't bring a case summary, it's a good idea to write out your thoughts ahead of time in bullet point form. Doing so ensures that nothing gets forgotten, even if you become anxious when speaking with your doctor. Writing down the answers that your doctor gives will also give you a written record of what was said and help to keep you focused on that instead of your anxiety.

Acknowledge Your Anxiety

Before starting to speak with your doctor, tell them that you're going to have a hard time talking with them. If you decide to prepare a case summary, include a statement at the beginning that explains how you feel about sharing this information. Your statement might look something like this:

"I probably look fine to you now, but inside I am terrified that you're judging me. When I talk to doctors I become very anxious, my mind goes blank, and I can't explain what's wrong."

Bring Someone Along

Bring someone with you to speak to your doctor. In addition to having the emotional support of a friend or family member, that person can listen to what is said, think of questions, and ask for clarification when necessary. A second person could also take notes of what is said during the meeting.

Remember Doctors Are There to Help

Although it can be intimidating talking to professionals about personal issues, it's your doctor's job to listen and understand. Trusting your doctor may be hard, but sharing how you're feeling is the first step toward getting help.

If for some reason you feel that your doctor isn't helping you or isn't the right choice for treating your SAD, you may want to look for someone else. You need to feel comfortable and safe with whoever is treating you.

A Word From Verywell

Anxiety conditions such as social anxiety disorder are about twice as common in women than men, which is why experts recommend that women and girls over the age of 13 should be screened for anxiety.

If you are struggling to describe what you are feeling, consider asking your doctor for an anxiety screening. It might serve as a good starting point to talk about some of the symptoms you are experiencing.

If you or a loved one are struggling with social anxiety disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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