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15 Million Americans Suffer From Social Anxiety Disorder
Date:4/9/2008

Condition keeps them from having friends and mates, survey shows

WEDNESDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Social anxiety disorder prevents some 15 million Americans from leading normal social and romantic lives, a new survey finds.

The disorder leaves many isolated, ashamed and often misdiagnosed. Thirty-six percent of those with social anxiety disorder have symptoms for 10 years or more before seeking help, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America reports.

"Social anxiety disorder is when somebody has an intense, persistent and irrational fear of social or performance situations," Jerilyn Ross, the association's president and CEO, said during a teleconference Wednesday.

"The condition causes people to avoid common, everyday situations and even other people for fear of being judged or criticized or humiliated or embarrassing themselves," Ross said.

Social anxiety disorder can interfere with daily routines and job performance, Ross noted. "It also makes it very difficult for people to develop friends and romantic partnerships," she said.

People with this disorder recognize their fear is excessive and irrational, Ross noted. "But they feel powerless to do anything about it," she said.

Social anxiety disorder can start in the early teens, Dr. Mark H. Pollack, director of the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said during the teleconference.

"This is a disorder that starts affecting people early on," Pollack said. "The typical age of onset is early adolescence, age 12 or 13, and many individuals report a history of anxiety dating back to earlier childhood."

The disorder also has physical symptoms, including heart palpitations, feelings that their throat will close up, sweating, blushing, faintness, trembling and stammering, Ross said.

In the survey, pollsters questioned 578 people with
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15 Million Americans Suffer From Social Anxiety Disorder
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