More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Social anxiety disorder can persist for decades: StatsCan study
Canadian Press - October 26, 2004

OTTAWA (CP) - Perhaps everyone gets nervous before an important meeting or social event. But "crippling shyness" has caused an estimated two million Canadians to avoid social encounters or face them with dread at some point in their lives, a Statistics Canada study said Tuesday.

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, begins in adolescence and symptoms can persist for decades. It is a condition where people feel extremely uncomfortable or paralysed in social or work situations because of an intense fear of being scrutinized or embarrassed.

In 2002 about 750,000 Canadians aged 15 or older had symptoms of social anxiety disorder in the past year, the report said.

"These individuals have a higher risk of having major depressive disorder, panic disorder and dependency on illicit drugs and alcohol."

Among individuals with a history of the disorder the average age of onset was 13, and it lasted an average of 20 years.

Women were more likely to have the disorder than men. It was also more prevalent in people who had never married or were divorced or separated, compared with those who were married; and in people in lower-income rather than higher-income households.

In addition, "people with social anxiety disorder tended to report a lower quality of life, as indicated by their negative perceptions of their own health," the report stated.

The study was based on data from the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey, in which 37,000 people across the country were questioned.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Shyness can strike early, often with crippling effect

Shyness can strike early, often with crippling effect
A new study has found that 3 per cent of the Canadian population suffered from crippling shyness some time in 2002.

The study, which relied on self-reporting, showed that a total of 750,000 Canadians ages 15 and over said they had some symptoms of social anxiety disorder during the year. Symptoms include feeling extremely uncomfortable in work or social situations because of a fear of being scrutinized or embarrassed. People suffering from the disorder will often avoid public situations entirely.

Data for the study comes from the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey on Mental Health and Well-Being, part of a series of health reports done by Statistics Canada's health statistics division.

It also found that just over two million Canadians ages 15 or older reported a "lifelong history" of social anxiety disorder, meaning they had symptoms at some point in their lives.

The survey found that social anxiety disorder typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and that "the symptoms often persist for decades."

"One striking feature of social anxiety is its early age of onset. ... Among individuals with a lifetime history of the disorder, the average age of onset was 13," the authors said.

"By contrast, the first symptoms of two other common disorders - panic disorder and depression - were evident much later, around the ages of 25 and 28, respectively."

By age, it found that young people from the ages of 15 to 24 were most likely to experience the disorder, followed by middle-aged people and older people.

By sex, women were slightly more likely to have social anxiety disorder than men.

Most people's crippling shyness typically lasted for 20 years.

The disorder is also associated with lower educational attainment, low incomes and/or dependence on social assistance, lower likelihood of marriage, social isolation and a general dissatisfaction with health and life.

Those who never married or who are divorced are more likely to experience the problem than those who are married, the authors said.

"People with the disorder were also less likely to have jobs, and those who did have jobs, had lower personal incomes," the study said.

"This may partly result from the lower educational levels among people with social anxiety disorder, as well as difficulties remaining in jobs that demand a fair amount of social interaction."

The 2002 study found that most sufferers do not seek professional help, or else do so only after having the problem for years.

Only about 37 per cent of the people who responded to the survey said they had sought treatment from either a doctor, psychiatrist or other professional.

"This was well below the rates for major depressive disorder or panic disorder; in both of these cases, about seven out of 10 sufferers had sought professional help," the authors said.

Most waited about 14 years after the onset of the crippling shyness before seeking help, the study found.

"In general, sufferers may just be too inhibited by their social fears to seek help. They may be reluctant or embarrassed to discuss their symptoms, even with a health professional," the authors said.
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