Psychology Today sheds new light on the topic of social anxiety with a new study from the National Institute of Mental Health. The research compared brain scans of people with anxiety disorder and those without it; and the results revealed some surprising facts about the neural roots of this type of disorder.

What is Social Anxiety?

According to the Social Anxiety Institute in the United States, “Social anxiety is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance.” Someone who is socially anxious is afraid of what others may think. He may be afraid of appearing inferior or inadequate, and he may be terrified of embarrassment and humiliation. Because of these fears, the person may suffer greatly before a social situation occurs, or she may avoid the situation altogether. Some social anxiety is normal for human beings, but when it becomes irrational and excessive, affecting normal life and behaviour, it is a disorder.

The Prevalence of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety disorder is common in many countries. In the United States, it is the third largest psychological disorder, following close behind depression and alcoholism. In a heavily populated city-state like Singapore, suffering from social anxiety disorder can be acutely painful. It is difficult to find peace when so many other people are eating, studying, working, and walking in the same space.

The Structure of the Study

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health initiated their study of social anxiety disorder based on the idea that a person’s fears begin in early childhood. As part of the study, participants watched animated characters exhibit four different reactions to a strange creature. Next, the participants were shown the creature themselves. During both phases, the researchers recorded the participants’ brain activation patterns. None of the participants knew the true purpose of the study; they were asked about the animated character’s gender, and they had to indicate whether or not they would go closer to the creature or stay away from it.

An Active Amygdala

The most interesting findings resulted from readings in the amygdala portion of the brain. Participants with social anxiety disorder showed heightened activation in that area of the brain while watching the animated faces, especially when the faces showed negative emotions. The scans showed an unusual level of sensitivity to fear reactions in other people’s faces.

Modifying the Fear Response

Fortunately, people with social anxiety disorder can improve significantly through observational learning and therapy. Conditioning and altering fear reactions is possible with time and with careful treatment under the supervision of a psychiatrist in Singapore. After modifying and softening those fear responses through therapy, people may eventually become more comfortable in social situations.

Do you struggle daily with the fear of new situations or unfamiliar settings? Are you crippled by the fear of what others may think of you, or the fear that you’ll do something wrong or embarrassing? If these social anxieties are taking over your life, you need help from a top psychologist in Singapore. At Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, you’ll find caring, experienced professionals who understand your condition. We’ll help you work through those fears so that you can have a happier, richer life.

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Source: Psychology Today, 6 December, 2016