One of the things that can be quite confusing about Social Anxiety Disorder is that it has a couple of names. And people often have trouble distinguishing shyness and social anxiety. So what’s the difference?

Social Anxiety:

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is the psychiatric diagnosis and has been used as the official term in the “DSM-IV” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Edition Four) since it was published in 1994. The diagnosis was expanded to include situations that were previously excluded like casual social situations.

See Self Test for Social Anxiety

Social Phobia:

Social phobia is the older name and was used up until 1994. It was first used officially when the third edition of the “DSM-III” was released, and was narrower than the current definition. Largely as the diagnosis developed over the course of the twentieth century it has become broader in it’s scope.


The main difference between shyness and social anxiety is one of severity, and level of “impairment.” The DSM-IV defines impairment as needing to “interfere significantly with the person’s normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.” Furthermore the anxiety must be “marked and persistent” and considered by the person to be “excessive or unreasonable.”

In Summary …

Largely it depends on how you feel about it. The main thing is if your social anxiety is causing you problems or it is upsetting, then it is a problem for you. And even if “technically” you suffer from shyness, not social anxiety, then my step-by-step program for overcoming social anxiety can still definitely help.

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