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Although literary descriptions of shyness can be traced back to the days of Hippocrates around 400 B.C., the first mention of psychiatric term, social phobia ("phobie des situations sociales"), was made in the early 1900s. Psychologists used the term "social neurosis" to describe extremely shy patients in the 1930s. After extensive work by Joseph Wolpe on systematic desensitization, research in phobias and their treatment grew. The idea that social phobia was a separate entity from other phobias came from the British psychiatrist, Isaac Marks in the 1960s. This was accepted by the American Psychiatric Association and was first officially included in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The definition of the illness was revised in 1989 to allow comorbidity between avoidant personality disorder and social phobia and introduced generalized social phobia. [1] Social phobia had been largely ignored prior to 1985. After a call to action by psychiatrist Michael Liebowitz, Richard Heimberg and the founding of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic, psychologists began conducting more research about the disorder. In the 1990s, paroxetine became the first prescription drug approved to treat social anxiety disorder. Two more drugs have since been approved by the FDA (sertraline and venlafaxine). Notable public figures with social phobia include NFL football player Ricky Williams and American entertainment personality Donny Osmond.

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