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The Top Ten Things You Should Know About Social Anxiety Disorder

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Updated July 07, 2012

If you are just starting to learn about Social Anxiety Disorder this is a great place to start. Find out a little bit about various aspects of the disorder and decide which topics to explore a little further.

1. SAD is more common than you think.

Over a lifetime, approximately 10% of people will experience the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). It is the third most common psychiatric disorder after depression and alcohol abuse. Until recent years, however, it hasn't received significant attention from the medical community and so has been underdiagnosed.

2. The symptoms may vary depending on cultural influences.

In some Asian cultures such as Japan or Korea, people with SAD may fear offending others rather than being embarrassed. For example, they may fear that their extreme anxiety or direct eye contact may offend someone.

3. It is more common in women than in men.

Despite the fact that equal numbers of men and women seek treatment for SAD, in the general population it is more common in women.

4. If you have SAD, you probably have another disorder too.

SAD quite often pairs with other disorders, most often depression, other anxiety disorders or substance abuse.

5. SAD is a phobia.

You may not think of social anxiety as a phobia in the same way that people are afraid of heights or snakes, but this is how it is classified. For those with Social Phobia, as SAD is also known, the fear is of being in social situations.

6. It can be generalized or specific.

If your only trigger is public speaking, you would be diagnosed with specific SAD. If, on the other hand, you fear most different kinds of social situations, the term generalized SAD would be used.

7. It is caused by both genetics and environment.

SAD is the result of a combination of both biological and environmental factors. If you have a genetic weakness toward SAD, you may not develop the disorder if your environment lacks the necessary triggers. Similarly, experiencing a traumatic social incident will not lead to the disorder if you don't already have a genetic predisposition.

8. SAD is more than just shyness.

You may be wondering what the difference is between shyness and SAD. The difference is that while shy people are uneasy in social situations, they do not experience extreme dread in anticipation of these events, and don't tend to avoid situations that make them uneasy. People with SAD also are not necessarily shy. In some social situations, they may be completely at ease.

9. SAD tends to go undiagnosed and untreated.

Less than 25% of people with SAD symptoms ever receive treatment. It is the nature of social phobia to be reluctant to seek treatment, and because the disorder is only now becoming more commonly recognized, medical professionals may write it off as simple shyness or normal social unease.

10. SAD is highly treatable!

If you've suffered privately with the symptoms of SAD for a long time, it may seem like nothing can help. While the disorder tends to go undiagnosed and untreated, for those that do seek and receive treatment, the majority show substantial improvement. Medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both can lead to dramatic improvement of symptoms.

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