One of the most prevalent of the anxiety disorders, and yet one of the most misunderstood — social anxiety is often misdiagnosed and mistreated.
AKFSA’s goal is to change that.
We hope that the resources and tools you find here will expand your knowledge of the disorder and be helpful as you diagnose, treat and support your clients with social anxiety.
+DSM-V definition of social anxiety
While reading the definition below, keep in mind that a client may not present with clear social anxiety symptoms. Due to the longevity of the disorder, many professionals first diagnose depression or substance abuse, which is why it is imperative to spend time with a client in order to find the underlying conditions that have propelled the depression or substance abuse.
Please note these important changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-V:
- Name change from “Social Phobia” to “Social Anxiety Disorder”
- It is no longer required that individuals over the age of 18 recognize that their anxiety is excessive or unreasonable. This is based on evidence that individuals with such disorders often overestimate the danger in “phobic” situations and that older individuals often misattribute “phobic” fears to aging. Instead, the anxiety must be out of proportion to the actual danger or threat in the situation (after taking cultural and contextual factors into account).
- The six-month duration requirement, which used to be limited to individuals under age 18, is now extended to all ages. This change is intended to minimize over-diagnosis of transient fears.
Characteristics of Social Anxiety Disorder
- A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which an individual is exposed to unfamiliar people or the possible scrutiny of others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be embarrassing and humiliating.
- Exposure to the feared situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally pre-disposed panic attack.
- The feared situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety or distress.
- The avoidance, anxious anticipation or distress in the feared social or performance situation(s) interferes significantly with an individual’s normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.
- Duration of symptoms last for at least six months.
- The fear or avoidance is not due to direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drugs, medications) or a general medical condition not better accounted for by another medical disorder.
Source: The American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, 2013
+identify your client’s symptoms
Diagnosing social anxiety can often be difficult, as the symptoms many sufferers display are common in other anxiety disorders and are tendencies most people already have to some degree.
Here we have provided you with an opportunity to download a document (specific for a child, adolescent or adult) that presents several scenarios and statements and asks you to identify how you think your client behaves or feels during certain situations, and to what degree.
Identifying the symptoms described in this questionnaire and their severity may be a helpful first step towards an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
Social anxiety, however, is obviously far more complex than the scenarios in this questionnaire. We strongly encourage you to expand your understanding and education of social anxiety. AKFSA offers professionals a unique opportunity to earn continuing education credits with our original DVD series, Social Anxiety: The Untold Story. We invite you to learn more about earning your social anxiety CEUs and our educational offerings on this page.
Download an exercise here:
+Professional education CEs
Social Anxiety: The Untold Story is a ten-chapter educational DVD series set to provide ten continuing education credits for eligible candidates. CMI/PESI Educational Institute, our educational partner, offers these ten credits for an exceptional value per credit hour. The DVD series can be viewed in its entirety online, so earning CEUs with CMI is a convenient option for the busy working professional. Click here to learn more and get started.
Our YouTube channel serves as an online video library containing segments from Social Anxiety: The Untold Story. These segments are available for professionals who wish to learn more about social anxiety without earning CEUs or securing a full version of the series. Segments will change periodically, so keep checking back for new footage. You can visit our YouTube channel and begin viewing video selections here.
+join a network of informed professionals
AKFSA invites you to join our Network of Informed Professionals.
1. As a longstanding practitioner in the area of social anxiety and related mental health issues, we want to add your contact information to a national map that will help individuals and families access practitioners that understand the diverse nature of people suffering from social anxiety. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your practice information and professional affiliations, such as ADAA and/or ABCT. There are no charges associated. We look forward to adding your contact information and web address to our site.
2. If you are not already established in this area of practice, you can secure your social anxiety CEUs through CMI here. When you complete your CEU, email a copy of your certificate to our Executive Director, Lori Blumenstein-Bott, at email@example.com. We look forward to adding your name in the near future.
+statistics on comorbidity & client suffering
Sufferers of social anxiety have a…
54% chance of having another anxiety disorder
56% chance of having a mood disorder
55% chance of having a personality disorder
48% of sufferers have alcohol abuse disorders
22% of sufferers have drug abuse disorders
23% will have generalized anxiety
22% will have panic disorder
34% also suffer from major depression
16% also suffer from bipolar disorder
11.5% also suffer from dysthymia
3.7% also suffer from bipolar 2 disorder
23% also suffer from avoidant personality disorder