"The results suggest that social phobia is not simply shyness that has been inappropriately medicalized," according to a NIMH news release. "Rather, social phobia affects a minority of youth and only a fraction of those who consider themselves to be shy. In addition, despite the greater disability that youth with social phobia experience and the greater likelihood that they will have another disorder, they are not more likely to be getting treatment compared to their peers, questioning the notion that these youth are being unnecessarily medicated."
One expert agreed the condition needs to be taken seriously.
"Social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, is a serious disorder that is very different than normal human shyness," said Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
He noted that the condition can take different forms. "Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation -- such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others -- or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people," Menevitz explained. "People with social phobia have a persistent, intense and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions."
This often manifests in physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating and nausea, he added.
"The importance of identifying and treating those adolescents with social anxiety disorder is important as they have higher levels of impairment in multiple domains, including school/work ability, social life and family relationships," Manevitz said.
The study was published online Oct. 17 ahead of print in the journal Pediatrics.
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