Profile of the Social Avoidance and Distress Scale

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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 clinicians 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 also 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:

  • "I feel relaxed even in unfamiliar social situations."
  • "I try to avoid situations that force me to be very sociable."
  • "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 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 internal consistency reliability of .94 and test-retest reliability of .68. These findings mean that this instrument has both validity (it measures what it 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 (APA), 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.

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 a social anxiety disorder. Anxiety screenings such as SADS may also be used during doctor's exams to detect the presence of anxiety symptoms. Only around 20% of people with anxiety seek help for their symptoms, but early detection can lead to quicker treatment and better outcomes.

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.

If you or a loved one are struggling with symptoms of social anxiety disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gregory KD, Chelmow D, Nelson HD, et al. Screening for anxiety in adolescent and adult women: A recommendation from the Women's Preventive Services Initiative. Ann Intern Med. 2020. doi:10.7326/M20-0580

Additional Reading

By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."