Tests and diagnosis
When you decide to seek treatment for social anxiety disorder symptoms, you may have a physical exam and your doctor will ask a number of questions. The physical exam can determine if there may be any physical causes triggering your symptoms. Answering questions will help your doctor or mental health provider find out about your psychological state.
There's no laboratory test to diagnose social anxiety disorder, however. Your doctor or mental health provider will ask you to describe your signs and symptoms, how often they occur and in what situations. He or she may review a list of situations to see if they make you anxious or have you fill out psychological questionnaires to help pinpoint a diagnosis.
To be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, a person must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.
Criteria for social anxiety disorder to be diagnosed include:
- A persistent fear of social situations in which you believe you may be scrutinized or act in a way that's embarrassing or humiliating.
- These social situations cause you a great deal of anxiety.
- You recognize that your anxiety level is excessive or out of proportion for the situation.
- You avoid anxiety-producing social situations.
- Your anxiety or distress interferes with your daily living.
Social anxiety disorder shares symptoms with other psychological disorders, including other anxiety disorders. Your mental health provider will want to determine whether one of these other conditions may be causing your social anxiety, or if you have social anxiety disorder along with another mental health disorder. Often, social anxiety occurs along with other mental health conditions, such as substance abuse problems, depression and body dysmorphic disorder.
- Social phobia (social anxiety disorder). In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed June 11, 2011.
- Schneier FR. Social anxiety disorder: Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed June 17, 2011.
- Hollander E, et al. Social phobia (social anxiety disorder). In: Hales RE, et al. The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2008. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed June 11, 2011.
- Phobic disorders. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec15/ch196/ch196e.html. Accessed June 17, 2011.
- Hofmann SG. Psychotherapy for social anxiety disorder. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed June 17, 2011.
- Bruce TJ, et al. Pharmacotherapy for social anxiety disorder. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed June 17, 2011.
- Lee RA. Anxiety disorders. In: Rakel D. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2007. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/154207005-3/0/1494/57.html?tocnode=54111716&fromURL=57.html#4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-2954-0..50014-4_229. Accessed June 10, 2011.
- Lakhan SE, et al. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: Systematic review. Nutrition Journal. 2010;9:42. http://www.nutritionj.com/content/9/1/42. Accessed June 17, 2011.