About Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

About Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

About Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Posted on November 24th, 2023

The biggest fear of individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is that of being found to be deficient and judged for the deficiency.

What can one do to escape judgment? The best solution would be to avoid people. Another solution that is often used is that of being as correct and perfect as possible so that no deficiency is evident.  While this sounds like a fool proof plan, it is not easy to be so perfect that no judgment comes one’s way. Despite it not being the best solution, fear of negative judgment typically drives individuals with social anxiety towards this fear fueled option of perfectionism.

When does Perfectionism become Maladaptive?

Adaptive perfectionism has been defined as striving for reasonable and realistic standards. Socially this would mean that one follows the rules of conduct and adapts to different social situations in a flexible manner without being too concerned about minor slip ups.

In maladaptive perfectionism there is a tendency to strive for excessively high standards which is motivated by fear of failure. Socially this would mean that rules of conduct are applied in a very rigid manner which is driven by fear of being judged. As a result social interactions become very stressful. Higher the distress the greater the indication that maladaptive perfectionism is playing a role.

The Costs of Maladaptive Perfectionism

Imagine facing the stress of going on a first date and then also having to ensure that you meet very high standards to ensure that nothing about you could be judged whether it is your weight, appearance, grooming, quality of your conversation, etc. Trying to be perfect in this manner is exhausting and also makes one feel tense and anxious.

When one is trying to be perfect, the tendency to be hyper vigilant of one’s errors increases. The focus on one’s imperfections can cause them to seem much worse than they really are. It will not allow one to get absorbed or enjoy conversations.

The process of self-monitoring to ensure high standards results in conversations that lack spontaneity. People who experience social anxiety are usually trapped in a situation where they want to have closer connections but all that they do to make sure it happens tends to actually prevent it from happening. Their maladaptive perfectionism inhibits them from being themselves which hinders authentic connections that lead to belonging and acceptance.

What people with Social Anxiety are often not too cognizant of is the fact that everyone has deficiencies. They do not really see others as flawed and human as they are. They make unfair comparisons and their thinking is often distorted.

Journey from Maladaptive to Adaptive

It is clear that maladaptive perfectionism has several costs. Reducing high standards of perfectionism can be scary but if done in gradual stages the costs of the unhealthy perfectionism will diminish and you will gain the freedom to be yourself.

Seeking the help of a professional would be good since you will have an ally and an expert in your corner who will guide and cheer you on.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been extensively researched and established as an effective treatment for social anxiety. Seeking treatment for social anxiety with CBT will help with the perfectionism as well. Research indicates that targeting the maladaptive perfectionism with CBT in addition to the social anxiety becomes important when individuals have high levels of maladaptive perfectionism.

Make imperfect your new perfect and break free from your social anxiety!

Suma Chand, PhD

Suma Chand, PhD, is a Professor and Director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, St Louis University School of Medicine.  She is involved in the training of Psychiatry residents and fellows in CBT and as a SLUCare Provider runs CBT clinics for adults and older adults offering individual and group CBT. Dr. Chand's clinical and research interests are in the areas of CBT for adults and older adults with anxiety and depressive disorders, sleep related problems and maladaptive perfectionism. She also writes blog posts on mental health topics. Dr. Chand is a member of the  Public Education Committee of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Social Anxiety Center.

We're Here to Listen

If you have any questions or if you're ready to start your journey towards healing and personal growth, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Our team is here to listen, understand, and support you every step of the way. Your well-being is our priority, and we look forward to assisting you on your path to a healthier and happier life. Feel free to send us a message, and we'll respond as soon as possible.

You can also You can call (254)258- 3769 or email [email protected]
and you will get an email or call return within 24 hours on weekdays and weekends 72 hours return.


Crisis Text Line: Text to 988 in USA Emergency 911

*Please call 911 in case of an emergency.

*HIPAA Notification: This communication contains protected health information and has been disclosed to you from records protected by Federal (HIPAA) and State privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations. Federal and Ga, Fl and Tx State laws and regulations prohibit you from making any further disclosure of this information.

*Please note that cancellations with less than 24 business hours notice and no-shows are subject to a cancellation fee of $75.

National Eating Disorder Association: Call 1-800-931-2237

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 988lifeline.org/ chat

Contact Us