Social Avoidance and Distress Scale (SADS)

Image of true versus false response.
The SADS is a true/false inventory. Getty / Nihat Dursun

The Social Avoidance and Distress Scale (SADS) is a 28-itemĀ self-rated scale used to measure various aspects of social anxiety including distress, discomfort, fear, anxiety, and the avoidance of social situations.

The SADS was developed by David Watson and Ronald Friend in 1969. The SADS is closely linked to the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (FNE) by the same authors.


Each item on the SADS is a statement about some aspect of social anxiety.

You must decide whether each statement is true or false for you personally. If the choice is difficult, you are asked to choose the one that is slightly more applicable based on how you feel at the moment. You are asked to answer based on your first reaction and not spend too long on any item.

Below are some sample questions from the SADS.

  1. I feel relaxed even in unfamiliar social situations.
  2. I try to avoid situations which force me to be very sociable.
  3. It is easy for me to relax when I am with strangers.


A total score on the SADS is obtained based on the answers to the true/false questions. Higher scores indicate greater social anxiety. As with any self-report instrument, scores on the SADS need to be interpreted by a mental health professional and followed up with a full diagnostic interview for social anxiety disorder (SAD) when warranted.

Reliability and Validity

Scores on the SADS have been shown to correlate moderately well with scores on the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), based on a sample of 206 patients.

In student samples, Watson and Friend demonstrated an internal consistency reliability of .94 and test-retest reliability of .68.

Obtaining the SADS

The SADS may be useful in the assessment of social avoidance among those with social anxiety disorder, both in clinical and research settings.

Copyright for the SADS is held by the American Psychological Association, as it was originally published in an APA journal.

If you wish to use the SADS, you must complete an APA request form and submit a copy of the instrument as you intend to use it.


Statistic Solutions. Social Avoidance and Distress Scale. Accessed September 20, 2015.

Watson D, Friend R. Measurement of social-evaluative anxiety. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 1969:33;448-457.

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