Social Avoidance and Distress Scale (SADS)

Questionnaires are sometimes used to measure social anxiety.
Getty / Witthaya Prasongsin

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

Scale Development

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

Scales such as the SADS are most typically used by clinicans to screen for problems or by researchers to track symptoms over time, usually before and after some sort of intervention.

Scale Administration

Each item on the SADS is a statement about some aspect of social anxiety. When answering the Social Avoidance and Distress Scale, 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. Try answering each of these as TRUE or FALSE depending on which you think applies most to you.

  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.

    Scoring of the SADS

    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 Social Avoidance and Distress Scale 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. These findings mean that this instrument has both validity (it measures what is is aimed at measuring) and reliability (the items are all measuring the same thing).

    SADS for Research and Clinical Use

    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 Social Avoidance and Distress Scale is held by the American Psychological Association, as it was originally published in an APA journal. If you are a researcher or clinician and 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.

    Taking the Social Avoidance and Distress Scale at Home

    If you wish to complete the SADS on your own at home to assess the severity of your problem with social anxiety, a handout containing instructions on how to do this is available from the University of South Florida College of Education.

    As this handout is intended for educational purposes, be sure to only uses it for your own personal use. The entire scale takes only a few minutes to complete, and reading through all of the items may give you insight into the issues you are experiencing—and whether they may signal a deeper problem.

    A Word From Verywell

    If you live with symptoms of social anxiety disorder, it might be tempting to use a self-report measure such as the Social Avoidance and Distress Scale to assess whether your problems might be diagnosed as social anxiety disorder.

    However, while instruments such as the SADS might be helpful in screening for a potential problem, it is only through a diagnostic appointment with a mental health professional that your issues can be properly assessed.

    If you feel that social anxiety is a problem that is having an impact on your daily life, consider making an appointment to discuss your concerns.

    Sources:

    Sobański JA, Klasa K, Rutkowski K, et al. [Social Avoidance and Distress Scale (SAD) and Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (FNE)--reliability and the preliminary assessment of validity]. Psychiatr Pol. 2013;47(4):691-703.

    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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