Feature Article

Social anxiety disorder: common, disabling and often untreated

Lisa Lampe



Social anxiety disorder is more than shyness. It is associated with depression, alcohol abuse and suicidal ideation, and when severe leads to considerable disability and social isolation. Effective treatments are available but most patients with social anxiety disorder do not receive them.

Key Points

  • Screen for social anxiety disorder in patients who present after frequently missing school or work, or with ‘stress’, depression or hazardous alcohol use.
  • Effective treatments for social anxiety disorder include cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and antidepressants; however, few affected patients receive them.
  • For patients with social anxiety disorder, chronic illness is the rule without effective treatment.
  • The GP has an important role in providing information about social anxiety disorder and its treatment, prescribing antidepressants when indicated, referring patients for CBT and ensuring that referred patients are receiving good quality treatment.