Does Parkinson’s Disease Make You Afraid To Be Seen in Social Situations?

social anxiety


Does Parkinson’s Disease Make You Afraid To Be Seen in Social Situations


PARKINSONS DISEASE definitely alters the quality of life of those people who are affected and causes them great distress when in social situations.  A recently published study says about 42 percent of the PARKINSON’S population they studied did have serious or clinically significant social phobia and that over half of this group expressed varying degrees of anxiety in social situations.  This demonstrates that social phobias are widespread in PARKINSON’S DISEASE and constitute a serious concern.


Not all people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE develop social phobias and that raises some questions.  Is social phobia part of disease itself or does it develop as a response to the symptoms? Are the anti-Parkinson medications a contributor or is it a pre-existing condition aggravated by the disease symptoms and process? In this study, only a few people said they had serious fears of social situations before they developed PARKINSON’S, but about 25 percent of the people who developed social phobia during the course of the diseases said that they did sometimes feel shy or nervous in social interactions before they developed PARKINSON’S.  For the rest, social anxiety emerged with the diagnosis PARKINSON’S.  Over half of the people who developed social anxieties also suffered from depression.


Results of this study showed that more, younger men with an earlier onset of the disease developed social phobia than women. Older men were more affected by a longer duration of the disease, and postural instability along with gait disorders contributed to the older men’s fears.  The authors speculated that perhaps the difference in social fears between men and women played on the men’s conceptions of their sexual and social roles.


A review of recent studies was not able to establish a positive correlation between social phobia and anti-Parkinson medications.  The neurological and neurochemical changes that are part of the disease may also be contributors to the development of anxiety over the course of the disease.  Studies in other neuropsychiatric diseases have found that dopamine and dopamine circuits do contribute to some psychiatric and behavioral conditions, but more research directed at PARKINSON’S is needed.


The results of this study together with information from other studies show that age of onset, duration of the disease and severity of the symptoms all are major contributors to social phobias in people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE.  At some point in their disease, nearly all people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE develop social phobias.  Social phobias together with PARKINSON’S DISEASE dramatically decrease the quality of life for the people who are affected.  Partners’ and caregivers’ lives are also negatively impacted.


Withdrawal from social interactions and loss of friendship activities leads to isolation, despair and depression. It can make living with PARKINSON’S DISEASE utterly unbearable…for both patient and caregiver.  Social phobias are a major issue that requires serious attention.  Visits to the doctor are often focused only on the physical symptoms of the disease and medication regulation.  Social phobia may even prevent talk about social phobias.  Recognition and treatment for social anxiety needs to be recognized and treated early to improve the quality of life.


A good way to deal with social phobias in PARKINSON’S DISEASE is to get involved with other people who also have PARKINSON’S DISEASE.  Join a support group, go to activities designed especially for people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE.  PARKINSON’S PLACE offers a rich social involvement and many programs to improve the quality of life for people with PARKINSON’S.  There are sessions for asking questions and information for caregivers–in a unique and specialized setting dedicated specifically to helping people learn to cope with this disease.  Get Involved!



BK Gultekin, B Ozdilek, EE Bestepe’; Social phobia in Parkinson’s disease:Prevalence and risk factors. Neuropsychiatric Disease Treat., 2014, 10:829-834 Pub. online 5/21/14. doi: 10.20147/NDT.S62942 PMCID4049431



Review by Marcia McCall


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