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When prevalence estimates were based on the examination of psychiatric clinic samples, social anxiety disorder was thought to be a relatively rare disorder. The opposite was instead true; social anxiety was common but many were afraid to seek psychiatric help, leading to an understatement of the problem. Prevalence rates vary widely because of its vague diagnostic criteria and its overlapping symptoms with other disorders. There has been some debate on how the studies are conducted and whether the illness truly impairs the respondents as laid out in the official criteria. Psychologist Dr. Ray Crozier argues, "it is difficult to ascertain whether the person being interviewed adheres to the DSM-III-R criteria or whether they are merely exhibiting poor social skills or shyness."
The National Comorbidity Survey of over 8,000 American correspondents in 1994 revealed a 12-month and lifetime prevalence rates of 7.9 percent and 13.3 percent making it the third most prevalent psychiatric disorder after depression and alcohol dependence and the most apparent of the anxiety disorders. According to U.S. epidemiological data from the National Institute of Mental Health, social phobia affects 5.3 million adult Americans in any given year. Cross-cultural studies have reached prevalence rates with the conservative rates at 5 percent of the population. However, other estimates vary within 2 percent and 7 percent of the U.S. adult population.
- ↑ Rocha FL, Vorcaro CM, Uchoa E, Lima-Costa MF (Sep 2005). Comparing the prevalence rates of social phobia in a community according to ICD-10 and DSM-III-R. Rev Bras Psiquiatr 27 (3): 222–4.
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- ↑ Social Anxiety Disorder: A Common, Underrecognized Mental Disorder. American Family Physician. Nov 15, 1999.
- ↑ Crozier, page 3.
- ↑ Stein MB, Gorman JM (May 2001). Unmasking social anxiety disorder. J Psychiatry Neurosci 26 (3): 185–9.
- ↑ Surgeon General Adults and Mental Health 1999. Retrieved February 22, 2006.