Recent research shows that 95 percent of patients diagnosed with Social Phobia originally went to the doctor for treatment of another disorder.
In addition, it was found that a majority of psychiatry outpatients have more than one mental disorder, and more than one-third have at least three disorders. Most patients had two current diagnoses.
Of the twelve most common disorders, major Depression was the most frequent diagnosis, with Social Phobia being diagnosed in 25 percent of the patients. The highest rate for comorbid (simultaneous presence of two or more chronic conditions) disorders was found for patients with a principal diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.
Clinicians should check for two or more mood or anxiety problems
Mark Zimmerman, M.D., the lead researcher for the study at the Rhode Island Hospital, said,
Based on the results of this study, clinicians should assume that in outpatients presenting for the treatment of mood or anxiety problems, the patients have more than one diagnosis.
The study of 3400 psychiatric patients also examined which disorders were the most common reasons for seeking treatment. Major Depressive Disorder was the most common, present in nearly half of the patients, and was usually the primary reason for seeking treatment.
Social phobia was the second most common disorder diagnosed, at 25 percent. The Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association states that Social Phobia is the third largest psychological problem in the United States today.
For disorders like Social Phobia that are infrequently diagnosed as the principle disorder in clinical practice, it will be important for the next generation of treatment-efficacy studies to determine if treatment is effective when the disorder is a comorbid condition.
An isolated diagnosis is not the norm
Most clinical studies restrict themselves to one mental disorder, excluding subjects with multiple disorders. The researchers hope the finding demonstrates the complexity of mental health care and the need for researchers and clinicians to acknowledge that an isolated diagnosis or disorder is not the norm. The authors wrote,
We hope that by documenting the high frequency of comorbidity in clinical practice, this will provide the impetus for modifying how treatment studies are conducted to allow patients with multiple disorders to be included and to determine the outcome of comorbid disorders as well as the primary disorder that is being treated.
It is interesting that only 5 percent of the 3400 patients studied originally went to the doctor for problems associated with Social Phobia. Twenty-five percent of those seeking treatment were eventually diagnosed as having Social Phobia.
Social Phobia is not well understood
Unlike other psychological problems, Social Phobia is not well understood by the general public. So, according to this study, fully 95 percent will not initially visit the doctor seeking help for the disorder. If it is diagnosed at all, it will be in combination with some other mental disorder.
The Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association says that about 7 percent of the American population — 21 million — currently is affected by Social Phobia. Over 13 percent, 40 million people, will develop Social Phobia at some time in their life span.
These numbers add up to an almost unimaginable amount of needless suffering.
What do you think?
Please take a look at the SAD — Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) section of the Anxiety Reference on the left sidebar. If any of the symptoms under “What are the criteria for diagnosis?” section are troubling you, I urge you to see a mental health care professional right away.
- Do these numbers ring true to you?
- Are you currently suffering from both Social Phobia and another mental disorder?
As always, your comments are welcome!
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Sources used in this post:
Zimmerman, M., McGlinchey, J.B., Chelminski, I., Young, D. (2008). Diagnostic comorbidity in 3400 psychiatric out-patients presenting for treatment evaluated with a semi-structured diagnostic interview. Retrieved July 11, 2008 from Psychological Medicine Web site: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=1661072&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0033291707001717
Nauert, Rick. (2008). Psychiatric Patients Often Have More Than One Diagnosis. Retrieved July 1, 2008 from Psych Central Web site: http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/01/14/psychiatric-patients-often-have-more-than-one-diagnosis/1776.html
The Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association
Last updated: January 1, 2009