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Comorbidity and social phobia: evidence from clinical, epidemiologic, and genetic studies

Abstract

This paper reviews evidence from clinical, epidemiologic, and family studies regarding the association between social phobia and other syndromes. Social phobia is strongly associated with other anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and affective disorders in both clinical and community samples. An average of 80% of social phobics identified in community samples meet diagnostic criteria for another lifetime condition. Social phobia is most strongly associated with other subtypes of anxiety disorders, with an average of 50% of social phobics in the community reporting a concomitant anxiety disorder including another phobic disorder, generalized anciety, or panic disorder. Approximately 20% of subjects in the community meet lifetime criteria for a major depressive disorder. The onset of social phobia generally precedes that of all other disorders, with the exception of simple phobia. Both clinical severity and treated prevalence are consistently greater among social phobics with comorbid disorders The results of family and twin studies reveal that shared etiologic factors explain a substantial proportion of the comorbidity between social phobia and depression, whereas the association between social phobia and alcoholism derives from a nonfamilial causal relationship between the two conditions. Clinical and phenomenologic implications of these findings are discussed.

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Correspondence to Kathleen Ries Merikangas.

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Merikangas, K.R., Angst, J. Comorbidity and social phobia: evidence from clinical, epidemiologic, and genetic studies. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Nuerosci 244, 297–303 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02190407

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Key words

  • Comorbidity
  • Social phobia
  • Depression
  • Alcoholism
  • Family studies
  • Twin studies