Types of Social Anxiety

The Different Types of Social Anxiety Disorder

There have been several attempts to classify people suffering from SAD into different subgroups. Since these subgroups differ from each other in certain aspects, a classification seems appropriate, especially when it comes to therapeutic approaches. A person that is socially anxious in almost every situation, for instance, is likely to have different necessities and might choose an approach that differs in duration and therapeutic focus, compared to a person who only experiences public speaking anxiety.

Classifying the Subtypes of Social Anxiety Disorder

Three different types of classifying individuals suffering from social anxiety disorder have been described and established:

  1. Classification according to the amount of feared situations:
    • generalized subtype (fear in most social situations; earlier onset; believed to have a stronger underlying genetic component)
    • nongeneralized subtype (fear in most social situations, but at least one area of normal functioning in the social realm)
    • specific subtype (only experience fear in a limited number of social settings, such as public speaking)
  2. Classification according to the types of feared situations:
    • performance situations (most common is public speaking anxiety; believed to often be the result of a traumatic conditioning experience)
    • interaction situations (e.g. conversing with co-workers or an attractive person of the opposite sex)
    • observation situations (such as being observed while writing or making a payment)
  3. Classification according to the focus of the social fears:
    • acting in an inept fashion or engaging in an unacceptable behavior (like saying something stupid or being the reasons others have to wait)
    • displaying physical signs of anxiety (sweating, trembling, blushing, erectile difficulties etc.)
    • offending others (in Japan called: Taijin Kyofusho, but also prevalent in non-collectivist cultures; fear of causing discomfort to others)
Individuals with generalized social anxiety disorder fear the majority of social situations. Experts believe that the genetic component plays an important role for these individuals.

Keep reading → Do you suffer from social anxiety?