Shy or SAD? There's a big difference.


Most of us get embarrassed, even humiliated on occasion. The public speaking engagement usually brings on a few butterflies. The anxiety of approaching a stranger or going somewhere alone all seem normal. But at some point, the anxiety can cross over from being shy to having social anxiety disorder.

Avoiding social interaction

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a fear of embarrassment or humiliation in social situations to the point that these interactions are avoided or distressful if unavoidable. It is the fourth most common mental disorder in the United States. As many as 13% of the general population may experience it. About one-third of people with diagnosed mental health issues have it.

Debate over best treatment

“There are many differing opinions about social anxiety disorder and the best treatment,” said Kristy L. Dalrymple, PhD, of the department of psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital.

"Should it be treated with medication, behavioral therapy, or both? The significant increase in the prescription of antidepressant medications (which often are used to treat SAD) over the past several years – an increase of 400 percent – should be considered when determining the best approach. Are we simply medicating or are we helping patients to truly improve their quality of life?"

SAD needs more attention and better treatment plans

“Despite its prevalence, social anxiety disorder has not received the same attention from the public or mainstream media as other disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder,” Dalrymple explained. “Due to its social and economic impact, it merits further study... This isn’t about overcoming shyness. This is about helping our patients who suffer from a disorder that prevents them from living a happy and healthy life.”

Sources: Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, MedicalNewsToday

Photo by John Nyboer

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