Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, refers to intense self-consciousness and fear of embarrassment that exceeds common shyness.

SAD is the most prevalent anxiety disorder amongst children and adolescents as lifetime prevalence is at 5.5% in 13-18 year-olds (National Institute of Mental Health, USA), with a gender bias towards females (Kessler et al., 2005). In Hong Kong, the prevalence of SAD amongst children between 3 and 8 years-old is currently 7.5% (Child Assessment Services, Department of Health).

Children who suffer from SAD persistently worry about being judged negatively and rejected by others and humiliated by something they say and/or do; and as a way to overcome that fear, they often go to great lengths to avoid social and performance situations deemed as anxiety triggers. Unlike normal stress, this disorder is pervasive and causes inordinate distress and fear across most aspects of an individual’s life. Under diagnostic criteria, symptoms of social anxiety must be disproportionately intense, frequent and impede on aspects of daily functioning such as school achievement, social and emotional functioning, cognition, family relationships and physical health; and must persist for 6 months or more. The anxiety experienced is chronic and overpowering to the extent that even though older
children can recognize their preoccupations as unreasonable, their fears nevertheless persist beyond control. This is why it is unusual for anxiety disorders to resolve on their own, and research supports that if left untreated, can lead
to isolation, poor academic achievement, substance abuse and depression (Stein & Stein, 2008).

For more information on social anxiety disorder such as the common symptoms associated with the disorder and what we can do to help, please refer to our information sheet below: