How Do You Know Whether or Not You Suffer From Social Anxiety?
Since social anxiety symptoms are experienced by most people to a certain degree, it can seem difficult to determine whether or not you suffer from SAD. The crucial difference lies not only in the intensity of the symptoms, but also in the suffering they provoke for the individual. Some people might experience very high levels of physiological arousal when giving a speech, for instance, but don’t see this as a big problem or as something that makes them flawed. Despite the discomfort, they don’t shy away from public speaking tasks and they refrain from judging themselves because of their insecurity.
Things are different for SAD sufferers. They typically experience anxiety symptoms in social situations as unbearable, and often avoid certain situations as a result of it. Others might face the feared situations, but only under severe distress. Socially anxious people usually see their insecurity as weakness and blame themselves for it, which increases the suffering even further.
Standardized Tests for Social Anxiety
Over the years, there have been various attempts to standardize the diagnosis of social anxiety disorder with the help of different questionnaires. The most used test worldwide is the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (Liebowitz, 1987), which has stood the test of time.
Discriminating Between SAD and other Disorders
SAD often gets confused with other disorders because of the similarity of their symptoms. People suffering from agoraphobia, for example, also tend to avoid crowded places. However, there is a difference in the main motivation for this behavior. While socially anxious people often avoid such places out of the fear of being humiliated and rejected, agoraphobics do so mainly due to a fear of feeling helpless and trapped. For this reason, it is crucial to determine the main concern of the individual and make sure whether he or she suffers from social anxiety or of one of the various differential diagnoses.
Indentifying Additional Problems
Another thing to keep in mind are co-occurring disorders, such as alcohol abuse. Many SAD sufferers occasionally use alcohol in order to lower their anxiety at social gatherings without exhibiting an addiction. Nevertheless, alcohol use disorder is one of the most frequent co-occurring disorders of social anxiety. It is important to have clarity about those coexisting problems in order for therapy to be effective.