Why We Prefer "Social Anxiety" to "Social Phobia"

There are many valid reasons why "social anxiety disorder" should not be called a "phobia"...

1. Many people, even those in the professional organizations, have a difficult time understanding what "social phobia" is.  The largest anxiety association in the world almost always misuses the term -- and when it tries to give a case study or tell a story about a person with "social anxiety", it invariably turns into a story about a person with agoraphobia, an entirely different anxiety disorder, and one that is associated with panic disorder.

2. The people, organizations, and sites that lump "the phobias" together are doing a real disservice not only to this problem (which, by itself, is the third largest mental health care condition), but to the "true" phobias: specific phobias, such as fear of snakes, blood, insects, etc.

3. Social anxiety is all-encompassing.  People with social anxiety fear social situations and events, they do NOT fear having panic attacks.  They fear the high amount of anxiety experienced before, during, and after a social event.

4. Social anxiety and agoraphobia are light years away in terms of operational definitions.  Social anxiety is a fear of social activities, events, and the people associated with them, which leads to high levels of anxiety, and, therefore, motivates the socially-anxious person to avoid them.

5. Agoraphobia results as a reaction to panic attacks that occur frequently and in many places, thus making the person with agoraphobia feel unsafe when leaving their "safety zone".  The fear is of having a panic attack, not a fear of social situations and other people.

6. When an organization or group lists social anxiety as a part of the "phobias" it is a clue that they probably do not understand social anxiety, its complications, and its distinctiveness from the other anxiety disorders.  This is particularly sad, given the huge numbers of people who live with social anxiety.

7. The word "phobia" is inappropriate to this condition, and brings to the imagination a type of chronic sickness that is permanent.  Social anxiety, on the other hand, is successfully treatable, providing that cognitive-behavioral group therapy is a part of the program.

8. How can the largest anxiety disorder, one that affects 7-8% of the population at any given time, be lumped together with other anxiety disorders, thus diluting its already misunderstood status?  Is this not a slap in the face of people who are in great need of help for a specific, clearly definable, anxiety disorder?

9. The term "social anxiety" (social anxiety disorder) is more precise, clear, and understandable.

Our History and Our Mission

The Anxiety Network began in 1995 due to growing demand from people around the world wanting help in understanding and overcoming their anxiety disorder.  The Anxiety and Stress Clinic and its website, The Anxiety Network, received so much traffic and requests for help that we found ourselves spending the majority of our time in international communication and outreach.  Our in-person anxiety clinic has grown tremendously, and our principal internet tool, The Anxiety Network, has been re-written and re-designed with focus on the major anxiety disorders.  

The Anxiety Network  focuses on three of the major anxiety disorders:  panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder,  and social anxiety disorder.

In 1997, The Social Anxiety Association, a non-profit organization, was formed and has its own website.

The Social Anxiety Institute, the largest site on the internet for information and treatment of social anxiety, has maintained an active website since 1998.  Continuous, ongoing therapy groups have helped hundreds of people overcome social anxiety since 1994.  Major changes in design will be occurring in 2014.

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