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Social Anxiety Disorder in the Primary Care Setting

Larry Culpepper, MD, MPH

Published: November 15, 2006

Article Abstract

Generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a disabling yet unrecognized condition for many individuals visiting primary care physicians. Social anxiety disorder carries a high risk of developing additional anxiety and mood disorders, including those with suicidal behaviors, as comorbidities, leading to a severe course. Screening and case-finding tools are available and can lead to the recognition of affected individuals. Once symptoms are recognized, an initial assessment will help to differentiate from other anxiety disorders and conditions that can be misdiagnosed as SAD. The primary care physician can manage treatment of SAD, which might require involving mental health professionals. Both pharmacotherapy, involving selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and psychotherapy, preferably with cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be effective. Long-term support strategies to monitor relapses or the development of additional psychiatric disorders or to provide anticipatory guidance at times of significant life transitions are additional primary care-based activities that can be helpful to the patient with SAD.

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