Skip to main content

Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. For people with social anxiety disorder, the fear of social situations may feel so intense that it seems beyond their control. For some people, this fear may get in the way of going to work, attending school, or doing everyday things. Learn more about social anxiety disorder.

Join A Study

For opportunities to participate in NIMH research on the NIH campus, visit the clinical research website. Travel and lodging assistance may be available.

Featured Studies

Featured studies include only those currently recruiting participants. Studies with the most recent start date appear first.

Neural Markers of Treatment Mechanisms and Prediction of Treatment Outcomes in Social Anxiety 

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: June 1, 2023
Eligibility: 18 Years to 50 Years, Accepts Healthy Volunteers
Location(s): Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

The purpose of this clinical trial is to answer the question: can the investigators predict which adults with social anxiety disorder (SAD) will successfully respond to treatment? To answer this question, the investigators plan to recruit 190 adult participants who experience extreme forms of social anxiety to undergo brain imaging before and after 12 weeks of group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Adults in the SAD group who do not respond enough to group CBT may be offered the opportunity to complete an additional 12 weeks of individual CBT while receiving SSRI medication (sertraline, see below) for SAD.

Data collected from participants who experience anxiety will be compared to a group of 50 participants with little or no social anxiety, who will serve as a comparison group.

CO2 Reactivity as a Biomarker of Non-Response to Exposure-Based Therapy 

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: November 2, 2022
Eligibility: 18 Years to 70 Years, Does Not Accept Healthy Volunteers
Location(s): Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States; The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, United States

Anxiety-, obsessive-compulsive and trauma- and stressor-related disorders reflect a significant public health problem. This study is designed to evaluate the predictive power of a novel biomarker based on a CO2 challenge, thus addressing the central question "can this easy-to-administer assay aid clinicians in deciding whether or not to initiate exposure-based therapy?"

Computerized Intervention Targeting the Error-Related Negativity and Balance N1 in Anxious Children 

Study Type: Interventional
Start Date: October 12, 2022
Eligibility: 9 Years to 12 Years, Accepts Healthy Volunteers
Location(s): FSU Psychology Building, Tallahassee, Florida, United States

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of psychopathology, and frequently begin in childhood, resulting in lifelong impairment. Increased brain activity after making mistakes, as reflected by the error-related negativity (ERN), is observed in people with anxiety disorders, even before disorder onset. The ERN is therefore of great interest as a potentially modifiable risk factor for anxiety. However, methodological issues can make the ERN difficult to measure.

Increased brain activity in response to a balance disturbance, as reflected by the balance N1, resembles the ERN, but does not share its methodological issues. The investigators' preliminary data demonstrate that the balance N1 and the ERN are associated in amplitude in adults, suggesting they may depend on the same brain processes. The balance N1 has never been investigated in individuals with anxiety disorders, but it increases in amplitude within individuals under anxiety-inducing environmental contexts. Further, balance and anxiety are related in terms of brain anatomy, daily behavior, disorder presentation, and response to treatment.

The present investigation will measure the ERN and the balance N1 in children (ages 9-12) with anxiety disorders, and further, how these brain activity measures change in response to a brief, 45-minute, computerized psychosocial intervention that was developed to reduce reactivity to errors, and has been shown to reduce the ERN. The investigators will recruit approximately 80 children with anxiety disorders, half of whom will be randomly assigned to the active intervention condition. The other half will be assigned to an active control condition, consisting of a different 45-minute computerized presentation. Participants assigned to the control condition can access the computerized intervention after participation in the study.

The purpose of this investigation is to test the hypothesis that the balance N1 and the ERN will be reduced to a similar extent after the intervention, to demonstrate that these brain responses arise from shared brain processes. Transfer of the effect of the psycho-social intervention to the balance N1 would provide insight into prior work demonstrating that balance training can alleviate anxiety in young children, and well-documented benefits of psychotherapy to balance disorders. Collectively, these data may guide the development of multidisciplinary interventions for the prevention and treatment of anxiety disorders in children.