Many people become anxious in social situations that can emit feelings of extreme fear, self-consciousness or being negatively judged or scrutinized by others. Many times, social anxiety is mistakenly considered as shyness but the problem can wreak havoc on the life of those who are constantly terrified by the thought of getting embarrassed or humiliated. Thus, it is important to recognize the transition from temporary fear and uneasiness to a constant feeling of apprehension that hampers everyday living. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, of which 15 million suffer from social anxiety.
Though the onset of social anxiety can take place during early childhood, it can often go unnoticed by teachers, counselors, coaches and parents, said Murray B. Stein and John R. Walker, in the second edition of the research paper “Triumph Over Shyness-Conquering Social Anxiety Disorder”, published in the ADAA. But the good news is that all social anxiety disorders are treatable through early diagnosis and treatment, which includes making the patient self-sufficient in dealing with his or her everyday fears and worries.
A team of doctors and psychologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and University of Manchester have recently claimed to have successfully treated a record number of social anxiety disorder cases through cognitive therapy, or metacognitive therapy as they call it. “Patients often rely more on the medication and don’t place as much importance on therapy. They think it’s the drugs that will make them healthier, and they become dependent on something external rather than learning to regulate themselves,” said Hans M. Nordahl, a professor of behavioral medicine at NTNU.
It is a known fact that in most cases, the conventional medium of treatment is drug therapy or a combination of medication and cognitive therapy. But sometimes, medications can have an adverse effect and patients experience the same physical symptoms associated with anxiety such as shivering, excessive sweating, nausea and dizziness.
In the study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, the researchers recruited more than 100 patients and divided them into three groups, with the first group receiving only medication, the second group being administered only therapy and the third group receiving both medication and therapy. Clearly, the group that was given only cognitive therapy displayed the best results after a year of the treatment.
Social anxiety in children can be particularly disastrous because, if left unnoticed or untreated, it can lead to problems such as poor self-esteem and motivation level, loneliness, low academic performance, stress, depression and even substance abuse. Thus, parents and teachers should keep a track of their child’s unusual behavior, such as unwillingness to go to parties, eat in front of others, speak in class or interact with other children of the same age.
Fostering an environment where the child can build friendships, express his or her thoughts openly without the fear of being evaluated, participate in discussions and talks, and control the desire to indulge in solitary activities, such as playing video games, can go a long way in eradicating the negative feelings.
However, further research is needed to establish the efficacy of metacognitive therapy in increasing the recovery rate that may help treat related psychiatric disorders as well.
While the conventional forms of treatments are still being used to treat mental health disorders, more research is needed to prevent the onset of such problems.
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