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‍Are social anxiety and depression related?

‍Are social anxiety and depression related?

These are two distinct mental health conditions share similarities and can affect each other.

Reviewed by:
Caitlin Gardiner, MD
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June 18, 2024
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Key takeaways

  • Social anxiety disorder is a condition where you have an intense fear of social interactions and situations.
  • Depression is an intense and prolonged loss of interest in things.
  • It’s possible to experience both conditions, which can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, and support groups
In this article

Social anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder (MDD) are two mental health conditions that sometimes occur together. In fact, these conditions present together up to 20% of the time.  

If you’ve experienced social anxiety disorder and depression, you’re not alone. You’re one of many who are working to treat both conditions—either at the same time or during different periods of your life. In this article, we’ll help you get a better understanding of social anxiety disorder and major depression, and discuss how each condition affects the other.  

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Understanding social anxiety disorder

It’s completely normal to get nervous in some social situations. However, when that nervousness interferes with relationships and your quality of life, it may be classified as social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder, also referred to as social phobia, is an intense fear of social situations, including ones where you may be embarrassed, judged, or the center of attention. This social fear may also arise before public speaking, interacting with strangers, or any other social event or environment. It often causes people to sweat, feel self conscious in front of others, and avoid eye contact.

Social anxiety, like other anxiety disorders, can cause physical symptoms, including:

  • Forgetfulness, or feeling like your mind goes blank
  • Gastrointestinal issues, including a stomach ache
  • Panic attacks
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Shaking

Those who experience social anxiety disorder often avoid certain social situations to cope with the discomfort and fear they feel. However, there are several treatment options available, including therapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you learn new thinking patterns and social skills, and helps you develop healthy coping mechanisms. It’s important to understand that social anxiety goes beyond shyness and a mental health professional can help confirm a diagnosis.

Understanding depression

Depression, also called major depressive disorder (MDD), is a common mental health condition that nearly 30% of adults have experienced at some point in their lifetime. Like social anxiety, depression greatly affects your day-to-day life. It can leave you feeling sad, irritable, and lethargic for weeks or months on end. It may also cause you to withdraw from friends, family, and activities you once found enjoyable.  

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Appetite changes
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Negative thoughts
  • Sadness
  • Self-harm thoughts or behaviors, including suicide and suicide attempts  

The good news is that depression is highly treatable. Common treatment options include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and antidepressants, like  SSRIs and SNRIS (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Although it takes time and patience to find the right therapist and medication for you, many people who begin treatment start feeling like themselves again in a matter of weeks to months.

How do social anxiety and depression affect each other?

If you experience social anxiety disorder and depression at the same time, or in back-to-back time periods, it’s possible the two conditions will interact and exacerbate each other’s symptoms. In fact, some research shows that social anxiety disorder leads to an increased risk of experiencing depression. This may be because social anxiety often leads to withdrawal and decreased interactions with others. This type of isolation may make people with social anxiety feel increased loneliness and even depression. Or, if you already experience depression, being unable to feel comfortable in social situations may worsen depression symptoms.

The compounded effect of social anxiety and depression leads to increased distress or in worse cases even substance misuse, especially if left untreated. If you experience these conditions, don’t worry. Both social anxiety disorder and major depression are treatable, and you aren’t the first person to seek help for both. Many people learn healthy coping mechanisms and begin to feel like themselves again once starting a treatment plan.  

Related article: Social anxiety vs agoraphobia

Can you have both social anxiety and depression?

The short answer is yes, you can have both social anxiety and depression. It’s possible to experience both conditions at the same time—called comorbidity—or at different points in your life.  

Both social anxiety and depression can involve feelings of low self-esteem, negative thinking patterns, and avoidance behaviors like social isolation. Additionally, both conditions typically begin in adolescence or early adulthood—although they may present at any age.

The treatment for social anxiety disorder and depression are also quite similar. Many people find that either talk therapy or medication, or a combination of both, relieve many uncomfortable symptoms of each condition. It’s important to be patient with yourself while looking for the right treatment plan.  

Once you meet with your doctor for a diagnosis and get a referral to a psychiatrist, you may need to try a few different medications or doses before you find the right one. Similarly, you may meet with a few therapists before choosing one you’re excited to work with. In the end, getting treatment helps you live a more fulfilling, authentic, and present life.  

Looking to start treatment? Meet Talkiatry. We’re a national psychiatry practice that can help you get a personalized treatment plan that may include medication and therapy. Our psychiatrists will work with you to provide in-network, virtual care—and you can schedule a first visit within days. Get started with a short online assessment.

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Talkiatry take my insurance?

We're in network with major insurers, including:

  • Aetna
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Even if your insurer isn't on the list, we might still accept it. Use the insurance eligibility checker in our online assessment to learn more.

Can I get an estimate of my visit cost?

The best way to get a detailed estimate of your cost is to contact your insurance company directly, since your cost will depend on the details of your insurance.  

For some, it’s just a co-pay. If you have an unmet deductible it could be more.  

Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

Caitlin Gardiner, MD

Dr. Caitlin Gardiner is a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Dr. Caitlin Gardiner's practice is based on the biopsychosocial model and believes that the foundation of healing is in psychotherapy and human connection. She is known for incorporating therapy into her medication management practice. Typically she offers 30-minute follow-up visits for medication management with focused therapy based on individual needs.

As a known helper, Dr. Gardiner started her career with a bachelors degree in social work from Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, NY. After changing career paths she received her medical degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. She stayed at Upstate to complete her general psychiatry residency where she was chief resident during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this, she completed her child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Upstate due to the high quality of training. Dr. Gardiner has completed 3 years of advanced training in Dynamic Deconstructive Psychotherapy as well as specialized training in DBT.

Dr. Gardiner is a well -rounded psychiatrist who enjoys treating youth and young adults during transitional phases of life while providing a safe and supportive environment. She believes strongly in reducing polypharmacy and providing high-quality medication management through a therapeutic and developmental lens.

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