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What is Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia?

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) or Social Phobia

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is a common, distressing and frequently disabling condition. Social Anxiety Disorder (according to the DSM IV) is characterized by:

  • Fear/Avoidance of social situations
  • Feared situations avoided or endured with intense anxiety and distress
  • Fear recognized as excessive or unreasonable
  • Fear/Avoidance interferes with work, social life, and family activities

More specifically, the persistent fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment and/or scrutiny by others may occur. Exposure usually provokes an immediate anxiety response, which sometimes can be severe. Many individuals also report experiencing panic attack symptoms as a result of the exposure. In addition, because sufferers become aware that others could possibly notice them experiencing fear, by sweating profusely, blushing or shaking, their avoidance behavior increases. They become hyper-sensitive to not only feeling scared, but to looking scared also.

Most common somatic complaints of SAD sufferers are:

  • Blushing
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Palpitations
  • Stuttering
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Gastrointestinal problems (IBS)

Another common feature of SAD is anticipatory anxiety (worrying every day for several weeks) occurring far in advance of the upcoming social or public event. Consequently, the fear and avoidance behavior significantly impairs the individual’s basic life functioning across the board. SAD is a highly co-morbid diagnosis, overlapping with depression, substance abuse and other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and agoraphobia. Age and onset of symptoms typically occur between ages 11-13. Genetic disposition or an inability to metabolize anxiety properly and developmental influences may be early manifestations of a lifelong vulnerability to social anxiety.


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