Frequently Asked Questions About Social Anxiety Disorder

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What is social anxiety disorder (SAD)?

Social anxiety disorderis an extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations. People with SAD realize their fear is unreasonable but feel powerless to stop it. They avoid social situations in fear that they will embarrass themselves, causing them to feel isolated and alone. Symptoms of SAD include sweating, nausea, shortness of breath and feelings of detachment.

Is it serious?

SAD can be serious. It can interfere with a person’s ability to function in daily life. It can stop them from becoming involved in relationships, romantic or friendship. Some may avoid eating at a restaurant or using a public restroom, causing them to miss out on joining family members and friends. For some, it prevents them from working. Many people with SAD feel isolated and alone.

How common is SAD?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 15 million adults in the United States have social anxiety disorder. The Drexel University Department of Psychology reports that 13 percent of all Americans will have symptoms of SAD sometime in their life. 36 percent of those diagnosed with SAD said they waited at least 10 years before seeking help.

Is SAD the same as extreme shyness?

Shyness and social anxiety disorders are not the same, according to a study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). According to the study, only 12 percent of teens who stated they were shy actually met the diagnostic criteria for SAD. About 5 percent of the teens who answered “no” to being shy did meet the criteria for SAD.

Can children have symptoms of SAD?

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists the typical age of onset as 13 years old. Even though it isn’t usually diagnosed until the teen years, many people with SAD do report feelings of extreme shyness throughout their lives, even as a young child.

What treatments are available?

Certain medications have been found to minimize symptoms of SAD, but it is not a cure and the benefits last only as long as you take the medication. Another type of treatment is therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of treatment takes a lot more work on the part of the patient; however, changes and improvements made during therapy are often long-lasting.