What Are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder?
Are you interested in learning about the social anxiety disorder DSM-5 criteria used to diagnose social anxiety disorder? Are you curious what “rules” your doctor or other mental health professional is using to make a diagnosis?
The social anxiety disorder diagnostic criteria can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) fifth edition. This is a manual used by mental health professionals to identify mental disorders.
What I’d like to do is to list the “rules” or criteria as they appear in the DSM-5, and then explain anything that might not be easy to understand.
What Are the Criteria for Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder (previously known as social phobia) is grouped with other anxiety disorders in the DSM-5, such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and specific phobias.
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The social anxiety disorder DSM-5 criteria listed below are found in Section 300.23 on pages 202-203 of the manual and are as follows (I am paraphrasing).
A. You have significant fear or anxiety about one or more social situations where you might be scrutinized by other people, such as conversations, meeting new people, eating in front of people, or giving a speech. (For children, this fear must happen around other kids and not just when they are with adults)
B. You fear that you will do something or have anxiety symptoms that will make other people judge you in a negative way. In other words, you will become humiliated or embarrassed, and be rejected or offend other people.
C. These situations almost always cause you to have fear or anxiety. (For children, fear may show up as crying, tantrums, freezing, clinging, failing to speak, etc.)
D. You either avoid or endure the situations with intense fear or anxiety.
E. Your fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat in the situation.
F. Your fear or anxiety has lasted for 6 months or longer.
G. Your fear or anxiety causes you significant distress in daily life functioning.
H. Your fear or anxiety is not due to medication, substance abuse, or a medical condition.
I. Your fear or anxiety is not better explained by another mental disorder.
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J. If you have a medical condition (e.g., Parkinson’s disease), your fear or anxiety is unrelated or is excessive.
Note: performance only type is assigned if only public speaking or performing is feared.
Your mental health professional must check off each item on the above list (A–J) before making a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder.
(Watch the video below to hear more detailed information about the social anxiety disorder DSM-5 criteria from Dr. Todd Grande.)
The social anxiety disorder DSM-5 criteria also include some features associated with social anxiety disorder. These include the following:
- lack of assertiveness
- rigid body posture
- poor eye contact
- overly soft voice
- sharing little about yourself
- seeking jobs with little social contact
- living with your parents for a longer period of time
- taking longer to get married or have a family
- choosing to be a homemaker instead of joining the workforce
- medicating yourself with substances (e.g., alcohol)
Differential diagnosis refers to making the distinction between having one disorder vs. another.
In the case of social anxiety disorder, the following other personality temperaments or conditions can sometimes be mistaken for social anxiety.
Or, someone might be diagnosed mistakenly as having one of these disorders instead of social anxiety disorder.
Or finally, someone might fall into more than one category (e.g., have both social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder).
- panic disorder
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
What Is the Cure for Social Anxiety Disorder?
While there is technically no “cure” for social anxiety disorder, researchers have found that certain types of treatment can be beneficial. These include medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
How Do You Get a Diagnosis?
If you are concerned that you might have social anxiety disorder, the best thing to do is make an appointment with your primary care doctor.
That doctor can refer you to a mental health professional for diagnostic testing. This involves much more than just filling out a checklist.
Back when I used to do diagnostic testing, the interview would typically last up to 1.5 hours. You’ll be asked questions about a whole range of different things, so that they can rule out other disorders and see if you meet criteria for social anxiety disorder.
If on the other hand, you aren’t ready yet to go see your doctor, you could start off with a self-assessment. You can do that by clicking on “Take the Social Anxiety Quiz” below!
Related Articles about Social Anxiety
- Take the Social Anxiety Quiz
- Signs of Social Anxiety
- What Does Social Anxiety Feel Like?
- 9 Types of Social Anxiety Disorders