Social phobia: issues in
assessment and management

Connor KM, Davidson JR, Sutherland S, Weisler R
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,
Duke University Medical Center,
Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.
Epilepsia 1999; 40 Suppl 6:S60-5; discussion S73-4


Social phobia was initially classified with phobic anxiety states and was believed to be quite rare, but it is now gaining due recognition as a widespread and often crippling disorder. The boundaries of social phobia merge into traits of shyness and universal performance anxiety, with symptoms commonly appearing in the teenage years. If left untreated, social phobia is a remarkably persistent condition, leading to potentially lifelong impairment in social development and occupational functioning. It may also give rise to other co-morbid disorders, particularly dysthymia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, other phobic disorders, and substance abuse. Over the years, social phobia has been all too frequently viewed as a somewhat trivial, minor form of psychiatric illness and has received little clinical attention. This erroneous perception is now giving way under the mounting evidence in support of the extensive morbidity and disability associated with social phobia and the probable role of genetic and environmental influences. Furthermore, data from multiple controlled clinical trials reveal that this is a treatable condition, responding to both psychosocial and pharmacologic interventions. Here we examine issues to consider in the differential diagnosis of social phobia, review the goals of treatment, and summarize evidence in support of the effectiveness of individual pharmacologic treatments.
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