Background: Despite heightened awareness of the clinical significance of social phobia, information is still lacking about putative subtypes, functional impairment, and treatment-seeking. New epidemiologic data on these topics are presented from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R).
Method: The NCS-R is a nationally representative household survey fielded in 2001-2003. The World Health Organization (WHO) Composite International Diagnostic Interview Version 3.0 (CIDI 3.0) was used to assess 14 performance and interactional fears and DSM-IV social phobia.
Results: The estimated lifetime and 12-month prevalence of social phobia are 12.1% and 7.1% respectively. Performance and interactional fears load onto a single latent factor, and there is little evidence for distinct subtypes based either on the content or the number of fears. Social phobia is associated with significant psychiatric co-morbidity, role impairment, and treatment-seeking, all of which have a dose-response relationship with number of social fears. However, social phobia is the focus of clinical attention in only about half of cases where treatment is obtained. Among non-co-morbid cases, those with the most fears were least likely to receive social phobia treatment.
Conclusions: Social phobia is a common, under-treated disorder that leads to significant functional impairment. Increasing numbers of social fears are associated with increasingly severe manifestations of the disorder.