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Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria

Print version ISSN 1516-4446

Rev. Bras. Psiquiatr. vol.29 no.2 São Paulo June 2007 



Are there differences between early- and late-onset social anxiety disorder?


Existem diferenças entre transtorno de ansiedade social de início precoce e tardio?



Dear Editor,

We read with great interest the article by Menezes et al.,1 in which the authors highlighted that early-onset social anxiety disorder (SAD) patients presented more commonly with the generalized subtype, were more frequently inactive and had higher prevalence of psychiatric comorbidities. They could not find differences between groups regarding severity of the symptoms and therapeutic responses. The authors concluded that there is a subgroup of SAD patients with early-onset of social anxiety symptoms with different clinical characteristics.

In the framework of a prevalence study of SAD with undergraduate students, we evaluated 2,319 subjects taking several different courses at the University of São Paulo (USP) campus Ribeirão Preto and from the Universidade de Franca (UNIFRAN). The Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN)2 was collectively administered to all subjects who agreed to participate. After this first phase of the study, individuals with scores 6 in the brief version of the SPIN (Mini-SPIN)3 were included. All selected individuals were then interviewed with the Portuguese version of the SAD module of the SCID-IV.4 Diagnosis was confirmed for 237 (10.2%) of the total sample; the average age at SAD onset was 11.4 years (± 0.27) with an average time of disease of 10.2 years (± 0.3). All subjects gave written informed consent after being fully informed of the research procedure, following approval by the local Research Ethics Committee (no. HCRP 11570/2003).

Patients with early- (< 18 years) and late- ( 18 years) SAD onset were compared and contrasted regarding clinical and sociodemographic aspects, and academic performance (evaluated by weighted average grades) - Table 1. There were no statistical differences between groups in respect to symptom severity as assessed by the SPIN2 scale and its factors scores, academic performance, severity of SAD according to the SCID-IV,4 and use of general and psychotropic medications. In contrast to the study by Menezes et al.,1 we have not found differences between groups in respect to the frequency of the generalized subtype of social phobia and economic productivity. In addition, there was no significant correlation between age at onset of SAD and the SPIN scores (r = -0.08, p = 0.21) and academic performance (r = 0.01, p = 0.75). All of these results persisted even when we adopted an age cut-off point of 15 years old to define early onset5 (Table 1).



These different findings may be explained by the fact that in the study by Menezes et al. the sample was composed solely of subjects who sought treatment spontaneously at a specific research center, whereas in our study the SAD population was found in the scope of an epidemiological survey, not consisting of a clinical sample. Moreover, at this point of our study we did not systematically assess psychiatric comorbidity and only a subsample accepted treatment, not allowing for any conclusions regarding the influence of the therapeutic response and the effect of other psychiatric conditions between groups.

Thus, in conclusion, our data are not supportive of differences between early- and late-onset SAD subtypes. Nevertheless, future studies in different settings and SAD populations are clearly needed and opportune.



The authors thank Alaor Santos Filho, Maria Cecília Freitas, Stella Mesquita, Moisés Chaves, Marilene Pinho and Carolina Menezes Gaya for helping with data collection. We are also grateful to Kathy Connor and Jonathan Davidson for authorizing the use of the SPIN and for the collaboration with the process of translation of the instrument.


José Alexandre S Crippa, Sonia Regina Loureiro
Department of Neurology, Psychiatry and Medical Psychology,
Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto,
Universidade de São Paulo (USP),
Ribeirão Preto (SP), Brazil

Carlos Alberto Baptista
Department of Neurology, Psychiatry and Medical Psychology,
Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto,
Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Ribeirão Preto (SP), Brazil
Universidade de Franca (UNIFRAN), Franca (SP), Brazil

Flávia Osório
Post-Graduate Program in Mental Health,
Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo (USP),
Ribeirão Preto (SP), Brazil



1. Menezes GB, Fontenelle LF, Versiani M. Early-onset social anxiety disorder in adults: clinical and therapeutic features. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2005;27(1):32-6.

2. Osorio FL, Crippa JA, Loureiro SR. Inventário de Fobia Social (SPIN): validação para o Brasil. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2004;28(3):212-7.

3. de Lima Osorio F, Crippa JA, Loureiro SR. A study of the discriminative validity of a screening tool (MINI-SPIN) for social anxiety disorder applied to Brazilian university students. Eur Psychiatry. 2007. [Epub ahead of print] March 6.

4. Del-Ben CM, Vilela JA, Crippa JA, Hallak JC, Labate CM, Zuardi AW. Confiabilidade da "Entrevista Clínica Estruturada para DSM-IV - Versão Clínica" traduzida para o português. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2001;23(3):156-9.

5. Lecrubier Y. Comorbidity in social anxiety disorder: impact on disease burden and management. J Clin Psychiatry. 1998;59 (Suppl 17):33-8.



Financing: Research is supported in part by Fundação de Amaparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP, 02/13197-2) and Fundação de Apoio ao Ensino, Pesquisa e Assistência, Hospital das Clínicas, Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo (FAEPA) fellowships. JASC and SRL are recipients of Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq, Brazil) fellowships.
Conflict of interests: None