What is Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia.)


By David Joel Miller.

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia.) Was 300.23 now F40.10.

What is? Series

What is Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia?)
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Social Anxiety Disorder sometimes called Social Phobia is far more common and debilitating here in the United States than is generally recognized. The most recent estimates are that in excess of seven percent or over 22 million Americans have Social Anxiety Disorder. The U.S rate runs 3 to 6 times the rate reported in other countries.

Fully three-fourths of those who will revive this diagnosis first have symptoms during childhood from the fourth to the tenth grade. This results in significantly lower graduation rates by those with Social Anxiety Disorder. Lifetime someone with Social Anxiety Disorder is more likely to be lower-income and socioeconomic status.

The rates of Social Anxiety Disorder are highest among those who are single, unmarried or divorced. The disorder may be severe when young and single, become milder when the person is married and reemerge when they are divorced. The typical person with this disorder waits from fifteen to twenty years before seeking treatment.

The symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder.

People with Social Anxiety Disorder become extremely, excessively, anxious when they will be in social situations where they may be judged or evaluated by others. While you are only required to be anxious in one social situation to be diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder most people with this condition are anxious in many situations.

Someone with Social Anxiety Disorder will report that they can’t relax around others. They may hide achievements that would get them noticed, avoid attention, avoid eating in front of others and when in social situations they will listen instead of speak.

Other ways this disorder will manifest include, avoid confrontations, preferring to work alone, being afraid to ask questions, avoiding social gatherings, parties etc. They will underachieve to avoid attention, may drop out of school or not apply for a job or promotion.

Performance Anxiety is a special case of Social Anxiety Disorder.

People who are in the public eye are at extra risk for Social Anxiety Disorder. Many people are afraid of public speaking, this will not count towards Social Anxiety Disorder if you do not normally need to speak in public. But if your job requires public speaking, or being on stage and when you do this you become extremely anxious then that would be considered a case of Social Anxiety Disorder.

Children with Social Anxiety Disorder.

For children, we do not count situations in which they become anxious in front of adults. Children who develop the disorder also need to be excessively anxious in front of their peers.

Children may try to avoid the social anxiety by crying excessively, having tantrums, being clingy or going mute.

With Social Anxiety Disorder you can run or suffer.

Most people with Social Anxiety Disorder will go to great lengths to avoid social interactions. Some attempt to stay at home with parents well into adulthood convinced that they simply can’t venture out around strangers. They may settle for living in poverty, staying in abusive or dysfunctional relationships rather than attempt to move outside their residence.

Social Anxiety Disorder is neither brief nor temporary.

When we talk about Social Anxiety Disorder we are expecting a problem that is ongoing not a brief temporary fear of a social situation. Typically this has lasted for six months or more. Though clinicians are encouraged to use some judgment here. If you come in asking for help after only five months and three weeks you should get the help despite it being less than six months. In this disorder, the fear also should be far more severe than the situation would merit. If the danger is real and severe, this is not Social Anxiety Disorder.

Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder.

Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder can be very effective if the client can get to the treatment. One promising development has been the use of distance counseling over the internet for those too anxious to travel to the counselor’s office. Treatment has been effective both in reducing the Anxiety symptoms and in shortening the duration of the disorder.

There are other things that kind of look like Social Anxiety Disorder.

Professionals need to look at a bunch of other things and make sure that they are not sticking this diagnosis on someone when another diagnosis would fit better. The DSM-5 lists fifteen things that need to be ruled out before deciding on Social Anxiety Disorder. At the top of that list? Social Anxiety Disorder needs to be more severe and cause way more problems than just normal shyness.

As with the other things we are calling a mental illness, Social Anxiety Disorder needs to interfere with your ability to work or go to school, your relationships, your enjoyable activities or cause you personal distress. Otherwise, you may have the issues but you will not get the diagnosis if this is a preference, not a problem. If the only time this happens is when under the influence of drugs or medicines or because of some other physical or medical problem this fear needs to be more than your situation would warrant. These other issue needs treating first, then if you still have symptoms you could get the Social Anxiety diagnosis.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5, some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references. See that list at  Recommended Books. More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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One thought on “What is Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia.)

  1. Pingback: Is your Anxiety a disease? | counselorssoapbox

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