Feature Article

Social anxiety disorder: when is shyness abnormal?

Nicholas LS Potts



Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is the most common anxiety disorder in western countries. This article aims to help the clinician gain an understanding of the prevalence and associated impairment of social anxiety disorder and develop skills in how to recognise and treat it.

Key Points

  • Social anxiety disorder is common in the community but poorly recognised.
  • Social anxiety disorder is often associated with depression and possible alcohol abuse or dependence.
  • Because the disorder is rarely diagnosed, GPs need to screen certain ‘at risk’ patients.
  • The Mini-SPIN is an effective and quick screening tool for social anxiety disorder.
  • Social anxiety disorder is treatable with education, cognitive behaviour therapy and (in more severe cases) pharmacotherapy.