Brain Facts

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Social anxiety disorder - Differential Diagnosis and Comorbidity

Social anxiety disorder is one of the five major anxiety disorders as listed in the DSM-5. Social anxiety is many times confused with panic disorder (link is external). People with social anxiety do not experience panic attacks (they may experience "anxiety attacks"), in which the principal fear is of having a medical problem (e.g., heart attack).

People with social anxiety realize that it is anxiety and fear that they are experiencing. They may say things like "It was awful and I panicked!", but, when questioned, they are talking about feeling highly anxious. They are not talking about the fear of having a medical problem.

People with social anxiety do not go to hospital emergency rooms after an anxiety situation. People with panic disorder many times go to hospital emergency rooms, or doctor's offices, at first because they feel there is something physically wrong with them.

High rates of alcoholism and other substance abuse, family difficulties and problems, lack of personal relationships, and difficulty in obtaining and continuing with employment are among the everyday problems experienced by many people with social anxiety disorder.

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