Social Anxiety is Commonly Misdiagnosed

One of the biggest barriers to overcoming social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is to know what problem you have -- and then be able to define it.

Because social anxiety disorder is a relatively new diagnosis, many professionals in the field are not aware or have incorrect perceptions of this problem.  For example, many professionals confuse panic disorder with social anxiety disorder -- please see the article on how to differentiate between these two anxiety disorders.

Social Anxiety is frequently misdiagnosed

It is not uncommon for the socially anxious person to seek help and be misdiagnosed.  At The Social Anxiety Institute, we see socially-anxious people on a regular basis that come to us after being misdiagnosed as having:

  • clinical depression
  • manic-depressive disorder (bipolar disorder)
  • panic disorder
  • schizophrenia, all types
  • schizoid personality disorder
  • schizotypal personality disorder
  • attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Asperger's Syndrome

among others.  Receiving an incorrect diagnosis like this, the socially-anxious person many times accepts this "label" as fact and begins taking medication that is not appropriate.

When misdiagnosed, people still do not know what's wrong with them

Even worse than this, people still do not know what really is troubling them.  Thus they may spend many more years and thousands of dollars to find out... if they ever do.

If you are socially anxious, it is very important that you seek treatment from a professional who thoroughly understands your problem and the depth of pain you endure every day.  It is also important that your therapy be cognitive-behavioral in nature, because research has been clear that this form of therapy is the only effective method of reducing and eliminating social anxiety once and for all.

Socially-anxious people who are misdiagnosed are often prescribed medication that is inappropriate.  The appropriate medication, as a tool to reduce anxiety and continue with cognitive-behavioral therapy, is beneficial when needed.

But, please be aware that medication does not change brain patterns or brain chemistry forever.  That is why you need to take the medication every day.  If you stop taking it, your brain reverts to its old "patterns."

Only by learning and acting on new behaviors do your neural pathways and brain chemistry change permanently.

This can only be done through an active "learning" therapy, not through analysis or medication.  Anything that is permanently effective must change the neural pathway systems in the brain, which are measurable, due to brain imaging scans, like PET and CT scans.  Hypnosis, tapping rituals, eye movement rituals, affirmations, psychoanalysis, fake-it-till-you-make-it philosophies, and surgery on nerve endings have no chance of changing the brain significantly.  Only a learning and a "doing" therapy that emphasizes repetition can do that.  Albert Ellis, Ph.D.,called this "rational emotive behavioral therapy," and that is an accurate, descriptive name for this therapy.  Today, however, it is more commonly referred to as "cognitive-behavioral therapy."

Successful Social Anxiety Groups