Shyness should not be confused with social anxiety disorder (SAD) – previously known as social phobia.
SAD is an extremely common psychiatric condition that affects approximately 13% of the general population. SAD is one of the anxiety disorders and is characterised by severe anxiety when confronted with social situations, or even just thoughts about such situations. This anxiety results in severe distress and impairment in all aspects of the individual’s daily functioning, including social, work or school functioning.
More specifically,in patients with SAD, there isan intense and persistent fear of being in the company of strangers, there is the fear that other people will judge them negatively in a social situation, or there is the fear that they will act in a way that will embarrass or humiliate them. The physiological manifestations that accompany social anxiety may include: heart palpitations, a turning stomach, severe blushing, excessive sweating, dry mouth, trembling hands and difficulty swallowing.
Persistent severe anxiety
While it is normal for people to experience anxiety about certain social or performance situations such as job interviews or public speeches, the person with SAD experiences persistent severe anxiety that is excessive in relation to the actual situation. These symptoms often lead to acute avoidance of these "social" situations. Until very recently, the relative "normality" or high incidence of shyness or social anxiety has led to non-diagnosis of SAD.
Interestingly, SAD has so far received relatively little attention in research circles. The situation is however changing on the local front. Research on the causality of SAD, including the role of certain brain areas and hereditary factors is currently being conducted at the MRC Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders (Stellenbosch University) in collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Cape Town.
Participation entails a cost-free, once-off interview with a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Participation in other aspects of the study will be discussed in detail during this interview. Participants do not have to be diagnosed already (the interview will confirm a diagnosis, if present). All information will be treated as confidential.
If you are between18 and 40 years old,and know or suspect that you suffer from SAD and would like to know more about it and/or want to be part of our SAD research project, please call 021-938 9179, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Referral for treatment can be discussed with you if you are interested.