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What Is the Social Phobia Inventory?

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  • Written By: R. Bargar
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2016
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The Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) is a self-reporting tool used for social anxiety disorder screening. This 17-question test was created by the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department at Duke University. The answers to each question are arranged on a five-point scale with options to describe how well the criteria fits the subject, ranging from "not at all" to "extremely." In this way, the Social Phobia Inventory measures the degree of fear, avoidance and physiological symptoms experienced by the patient in various social situations. Research has confirmed the validity of the assessment.

Creating a questionnaire-type psychological test covering the complete range of symptoms characterizing social phobia disorders was the primary goal of the creators of the Social Phobia Inventory. Questions cover social situations that cause fear. These include fear of people in authority, fear of being criticized or embarrassed, and fear during social events. Other questions determine the level of avoidance of certain situations, including being the center of attention or making a speech. Distressing physiological symptoms including sweating, heart palpitations and blushing are also covered.

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Each question results in a score between 0 and 4, with the entire test having a possible score between 0 and 68. To determine a cut-off score that would distinguish between people with social phobia and those without, researchers administered the test to groups who were diagnosed with social phobia and control groups that did not have the disorder. Using the results of this study, a score of 19 on the Social Phobia Inventory was determined as the cut-off. The test readily relates the severity of the disorder. Other research has shown the test can distinguish between those suffering from social phobia and those with panic disorder, agoraphobia or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Estimates of the prevalence of social anxiety disorders in the general population show it is one of the most common psychological disorders. It has also been determined that patients with social anxiety and phobia respond well to treatment. For this reason, the designers of the Social Phobia Inventory created an instrument that was sensitive to the effects of treatment programs. Patient progress can be determined by comparing a beginning baseline to the score on the assessment after treatment.

There are other types of assessments that help diagnose social phobia and anxiety, but the Social Phobia Inventory has several unique features. This short assessment can be taken and scored quickly. It also covers the three essential aspects of social phobia, fear, avoidance and physiological symptoms. In addition, it helps determine if the symptoms are long-term rather than temporary. Research is being conducted to determine if the test is appropriate for children and adolescents, other ethnic groups or populations that do not speak English.

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