Social Anxiety



Transitory shyness is particularly common among very young children and a large segment of the population will experience symptoms of social anxiety at some point across the lifespan. Fortunately, such episodes pass without major incident for most individuals. For others, the experience of social anxiety is pervasive and leads to substantive distress and impairment. Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is defined as a “marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 456). The classic symptom constellation includes heightened physiologic reactivity (e.g., increased heart rate and muscle tension), cognitions reflecting negative evaluation (e.g., “Everyone is looking at how stupid I am”), and overt escape and avoidance and avoidance behaviors (e.g., school refusal, reticence to speak), although primary response modes vary considerably across individuals. As school is children’s primary social venue, it is not surprising that the school context is a significant source of distress for children and adolescents with social anxiety disorder (Essau, Conradt, & Petermann, 1999; Strauss & Last, 1993). As children often do not have the freedom to avoid school and other feared social situations, parents and teachers may misinterpret clinging and crying as oppositional behavior rather than as a symptom of social anxiety, and as such appropriate intervention is delayed or denied. For those for whom more covert cognitive or physiologic modes predominate, parents may be unaware of their child’s distress until the condition becomes quite severe and comorbid conditions such as depression and substance abuse begin to wreak havoc.


Placebo Depression Serotonin Stein Fluoxetine 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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