Fear: the impact and
treatment of social phobia

Walker JR, Kjernisted KD
Anxiety Disorders Program,
St Boniface General Hospital,
University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, Canada.
J Psychopharmacol 2000; 14(2 Suppl 1):S13-23


Social phobia is the most common anxiety disorder in the community with a prevalence rate in the range of 5-8%. The problem most often emerges in childhood or adolescence. Individuals with generalized social phobia are at risk of developing other psychiatric disorders such as major depression, alcohol abuse and other anxiety disorders. Sufferers of social phobia often do not seek treatment until they encounter difficulty with comorbid disorders. Recent research indicates that social anxiety disorder is associated with higher levels of disability and greater reductions in quality of life than previously understood, with difficulties encountered in social relationships, education and employment. In previous years, there has been little or no known available effective treatment, and the disorder frequently goes unrecognized in primary care. However, new pharmacological (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs) and psychological treatments are emerging that are able to produce significant symptom reduction and improvements in functioning and quality of life. In recent years, the SSRIs have been the focus of considerable research and are becoming one of the first-line treatments for social phobia. Early intervention in social phobia may improve quality of life, reduce disability and reduce the development of comorbid disorders.
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