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Medical News & Perspectives
August 26, 1998

Social Phobia—Not Just Another Name for Shyness

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JAMA. 1998;280(8):685-686. doi:10.1001/jama.280.8.685-JMN0826-3-1

WHILE 20% to 30% of adults say they are shy, 5% to 10% have excessive and pathological concerns about scrutiny by others that may interfere seriously with work or school, daily life, and interpersonal relationships, according to speakers on social phobia at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in Toronto, Ontario, in June. Although easy to diagnose, speakers said, social phobia often goes unrecognized and untreated.

People with social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, are 4 times more likely than the general population, speakers said, to develop other anxiety disorders and mood disorders. They also are more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances, perhaps in attempts to self-medicate. Prevalence and morbidity data come from large national surveys in the United States and Canada (Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1996:53:159-168; Am J Psychiatry.1994:151:408-412). Social phobia is the most prevalent anxiety disorder and third most common psychiatric disorder in the United States (Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994;51:8-19).

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