Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder or Specific Subtype?

Do you have generalized or specific Social Anxiety Disorder?  Don’t know the difference?  Basically the difference is that specific social anxiety has to do with symptoms that emerge only in certain contexts with a very specific set of symptoms, while generalized social anxiety disorder typically involves a very wide range of social anxiety symptoms that occur in many different circumstances.

The DSM-IV (the diagnostic and statistical Manual for mental health providers, fourth edition) is the book of commonly agreed upon diagnoses and diagnostic symptoms that mental health providers use so that when information is traded about a patient or a disorder, everyone knows what the other person is talking about. In the DSM-IV you will find that social anxiety disorder can be either the generalized type or the specific subtype.  Don’t be fooled by this.  One of the criteria that must be met for any mental health disorder to be diagnosed is that there must be either a significant degree of impairment or a significant degree of psychological distress caused by the symptoms associated with a rendered diagnosis. 

What this means is that you could meet the diagnostic criteria for having only a specific subtype of social anxiety disorder because only one of your symptoms was actually causing a significant degree of trouble in your life.  However, the truth may be that you have many different areas of your life that are affected by social anxiety symptoms even if they are sub-threshold, meaning they do not meet criteria for diagnosis as they are not severe enough to cause clinically significant emotional distress or impairment in some major area functioning in your life.

The Point I’m making is this, social anxiety symptoms usually begin because of a combination of genetic predisposition and life experiences.  While you may have life experiences that have triggered only certain symptoms to become very problematic, you very likely will improve (in terms of quality of life) by paying some attention to generalized symptoms that go beyond those that are causing the most difficulty.  In fact, there tends to be a generalization effect when a person works on combating social anxiety symptoms.  What I mean is that you may find a symptom that is severe (like shaking uncontrollably when trying to speak to a group) actually gets better when you work on other symptoms that are much less severe (like a tendency to speak a little too quietly, even with your friends). 

Don’t hesitate to get help with identifying and working on improving your social anxiety symptoms.  The return on investment you get from working on the symptoms will be higher than you probably realize.  Many people get used to suffering over time and begin to underestimate the degree of emotional and psychological freedom that they are capable of if they simply create a focused effort for changing negative life circumstances.  If you’d like help from me, start by picking up a copy of the Social Anxiety Secrets System here.

Be Courageous!

Dr. Todd Snyder