Research on Seeking Treatment for Social Anxiety

There is a huge, unmet need for treatment of social anxiety. More than half of individuals suffering from social anxiety do not obtain treatment for their condition. Of those who do obtain treatment, less than half of those are obtaining minimally adequate treatment.

Philip Wang, MD., PhD., a researcher at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues conducted a survey of nearly 10,000 residents of the United States.

First, the authors completed interviews to find out how many individuals had Social Phobia in the past year. (You can read more about the findings from those interviews here: and

Next, the authors asked questions about the treatment they had received. The authors found that:

-Of those who had Social Phobia, less than half (46%) reported that they had received any treatment in the past year.

Dr. Wang and his colleagues also wanted to find out how many of those who were getting treatment were receiving “MINIMALLY ADEQUATE” treatment. They decided that the minimum amount of treatment includes:

  1. 1)  At least 8 sessions of psychotherapy for at least 30 minutes per session, -or-
  2. 2)  For those who are prescribed antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications:

a. Prescription for at least 2 months
b. At least 4 visits with their treatment provider, in order to monitor how well the

treatment is working.

Dr. Wang and his colleagues found that:
-Of those who did receive treatment, only 38% of those with Social Phobia who had gotten treatment had gotten minimally adequate treatment.

Limitations to the study
Every research study has limitations, or caveats to keep in mind when thinking about their conclusions. Here are some of the limitations of this study:
-This study was based on interviews. Individuals may not always be accurate in what they remember about their treatment.

 Dr. Wang and his colleagues’ definition of minimally adequate treatment may differ from other scientists’ definition.

There is a huge, unmet need for treatment of Social Phobia (and all other psychiatric disorders). The majority of individuals who have Social Phobia do not obtain treatment. The majority of those who are treated do not obtain enough treatment.

You can read the full article here:

Article Reference
Wang, P.S., Lane, M., Olfson, M., Pincus, H.A., Wells, K.B., & Kessler, R.C. (2005). Twelve month use of mental health services in the United States. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 629-640.


What are your thoughts?

Do you have a loved one with social anxiety who has not obtained treatment? What do you think are some of the barriers to treatment?

What do you think a family member’s role could be in supporting those with SAD to seek treatment and to stay in treatment? What would be most helpful? What might be least helpful?



If you have a loved one with social anxiety who has not sought treatment, this article may be a nice way to introduce a dialogue with them. The idea of seeking treatment can be overwhelming and sometimes embarrassing. Helping your loved one feel understood, validated, respected, and supported is a powerful way to help.

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