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Social Phobia.



Social phobia social phobia
n.
A psychiatric disorder characterized by anxiety about being in public or social gatherings. Also called social anxiety disorder.
, also called social anxiety, is a disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions. Their fear may be so severe that it interferes with work or school -- and other ordinary activities. While many people with social phobia recognize that their fear of being around people may be excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome it. They often worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation.

Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation -- such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others -- or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people. Social phobia can be very debilitating de·bil·i·tat·ing
adj.
Causing a loss of strength or energy.


Debilitating
Weakening, or reducing the strength of.

Mentioned in: Stress Reduction
 -- it may even keep people from going to work or school on some days. Many people with this illness have a hard time making and keeping friends.

Physical symptoms often accompany the intense anxiety of social phobia and include blushing, profuse pro·fuse  
adj.
1. Plentiful; copious.

2. Giving or given freely and abundantly; extravagant: were profuse in their compliments.
 sweating, trembling, and other symptoms of anxiety, including difficulty talking and nausea or other stomach discomfort. These visible symptoms heighten the fear of disapproval and the symptoms themselves can become an additional focus of fear. Fear of symptoms can create a vicious cycle: as people with social phobia worry about experiencing the symptoms, the greater their chances of developing the symptoms. Social phobia often runs in families and may be accompanied by depression or alcohol dependence.

How Common Is Social Phobia?

* About 3.7% of the U.S. population ages 18 to 54 -- approximately 5.3 million Americans -- has social phobia in any given year.

* Social phobia occurs in women twice as often as in men, although a higher proportion of men seeks help for this disorder.

* The disorder typically begins in childhood or early adolescence and rarely develops after age 25.

What Causes Social Phobia?

Research to define causes of social phobia is ongoing.

* Some investigations implicate im·pli·cate  
tr.v. im·pli·cat·ed, im·pli·cat·ing, im·pli·cates
1. To involve or connect intimately or incriminatingly: evidence that implicates others in the plot.

2.
 a small structure in the brain called the amygdala amygdala /amyg·da·la/ (ah-mig´dah-lah)
1. almond.

2. an almond-shaped structure.

3. corpus amygdaloideum.


a·myg·da·la
n. pl.
 in the symptoms of social phobia. The amygdala is believed to be a central site in the brain that controls fear responses.

* Animal studies are adding to the evidence that suggests social phobia can be inherited. In fact, researchers supported by the National Institute of Mental Health The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is part of the federal government of the United States and the largest research organization in the world specializing in mental illness.  (NIMH) recently identified the site of a gene in mice that affects learned fearfulness.

* One line of research is investigating a biochemical basis for the disorder. Scientists are exploring the idea that heightened sensitivity to disapproval may be physiologically or hormonally based.

* Other researchers are investigating the environment's influence on the development of social phobia. People with social phobia may acquire their fear from observing the behavior and consequences of others, a process called observational learning or social modeling.

What Treatments Are Available for Social Phobia?

Research supported by NIMH and by industry has shown that there are two effective forms of treatment available for social phobia: certain medications and a specific form of short-term psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Definition

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an action-oriented form of psychosocial therapy that assumes that maladaptive, or faulty, thinking patterns cause maladaptive behavior and "negative" emotions.
. Medications include antidepressants Antidepressants
Medications prescribed to relieve major depression. Classes of antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (fluoxetine/Prozac, sertraline/Zoloft), tricyclics (amitriptyline/ Elavil), MAOIs (phenelzine/Nardil), and heterocyclics
 such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Definition

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are medicines that relieve symptoms of depression.
Purpose
 (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors Definition

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) are medicines that relieve certain types of mental depression.
 (MAOIs), as well as drugs known as high-potency benzodiazepenes. Some people with a form of social phobia called performance phobia phobia: see neurosis.
phobia

Extreme and irrational fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. A phobia is classified as a type of anxiety disorder (a neurosis), since anxiety is its chief symptom.
 have been helped by beta-blockers, which are more commonly used to control high blood pressure.

Cognitive-behavior therapy Cognitive-behavior therapy
A form of psychotherapy that seeks to modify behavior by manipulating the environment to change the patient's response.

Mentioned in: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
 is also very useful in treating social phobia. The central component of this treatment is exposure therapy, which involves helping patients gradually become more comfortable with situations that frighten them. The exposure process often involves three stages. The first involves introducing people to the feared situation. The second level is to increase the risk for disapproval in that situation so people build confidence that they can handle rejection or criticism. The third stage involves teaching people techniques to cope with disapproval. In this stage, people imagine their worst fear and are encouraged to develop constructive responses to their fear and perceived disapproval.

Cognitive-behavior therapy for social phobia also includes anxiety management training -- for example, teaching people techniques such as deep breathing to control their levels of anxiety. Another important aspect of treatment is called cognitive restructuring Cognitive restructuring
The process of replacing maladaptive thought patterns with constructive thoughts and beliefs.

Mentioned in: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

cognitive restructuring,
n
, which involves helping individuals identify their misjudgments and develop more realistic expectations of the likelihood of danger in social situations.

Supportive therapy Supportive therapy
Any form of treatment intended to relieve symptoms or help the patient live with them rather than attempt changes in character structure.
 such as group therapy, or couples or family therapy to educate significant others about the disorder, is also helpful. Sometimes people with social phobia also benefit from social skills training.

What Other Illnesses Co-Occur With Social Phobia?

Social phobia can cause lowered self-esteem and depression. To try to reduce their anxiety and alleviate depression, people with social phobia may use alcohol or other drugs, which can lead to addiction. Some people with social phobia may also have other anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

For more information about social phobia and other anxiety disorders, write:

The Anxiety Disorders Education Program, National Institute of Mental Health 6001 Executive Blvd. Room 8184, MSC (1) (MSC.Software Corporation, Santa Ana, CA, www.mscsoftware.com) Founded in 1963 by Richard H. MacNeal and Robert G. Schwendler, MSC is the world's largest provider of mechanical computer aided engineering (MCAE) strategies, simulation software and services.  9663 Bethesda, MD 20892-9663 Or call 301-443-4513.

Publications and other information are also available online from the NIMH Website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov or by calling toll-free 1-88-88-ANXIETY (1-888-826-9438)
COPYRIGHT 1999 National Institute of Mental Health
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Pamphlet by: National Institute of Mental Health
Article Type:Pamphlet
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Words:889
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