People with social anxiety disorder take criticisms with a pinch of salt, finds study
April 26th, 2018
Filed under: Anxiety by Rachael

Mental health conditions like social anxiety disorder (SAD) are categorized by the persistent fear of social interaction with other people. Consequently, people suffering from SAD are constantly anxious of being negatively evaluated and judged by others. Simultaneously, they dread that they may act in a humiliating and embarrassing way. A new study, published in the journal Emotion, concludes that people with SAD display a negative bias toward learning about the self from feedback compared to the healthy adults. This finding will play an effective role in understanding the psyche of the patients suffering from SAD.

SAD, the second most common anxiety disorder after phobia, is a devastating condition that affects around 15 million people, representing 6.8 percent of the total U.S. population. The disruptive symptoms of SAD like shyness, nervousness, shaking of hands out of fear while eating and eating, etc. have the potential to massively affect the daily life, occupational performance and social life of patients. Moreover, they run the increased risk of developing a depressive disorder and substance abuse. Usually, people with social anxiety experience emotional distress on being observed while doing something, introduced to strangers, criticized or teased, etc. The physiological symptoms accompanying social anxiety include a racing heart, intense fear, excessive sweating, trembling, dry throat and mouth, difficulty in swallowing, and twitching of muscles around the face and neck. Individuals suffering from social anxiety have low self-compassion, self-esteem, etc.

Socially anxious patients exhibit low self-esteem due to negative bias toward learning about self

The study, conducted by Leonie Koban and other researchers, suggests that people grappling with SAD suffer from poor self-image due to their negative bias toward learning from the opinion of others. Since how a person perceives himself or herself is an important determinant of his or her well-being, poor self-image and self-esteem apparent in SAD patients leads to excessive fear and avoidance of social situations. On the contrary, healthy adults show a positive attitude toward all social situations and look forward to updating themselves by learning from the feedback.

The researchers used a novel experimental and computational model to analyze the hypothesis that the association between biased social learning and self-evaluation/emotions is a core attribute that distinguishes people with SAD from their healthy counterparts. In this study, around 21 subjects with SAD and 35 healthy controls gave a 5-minute speech before a panel of three judges. After the presentation of their speech, participants assessed themselves and received feedback from judges. Thereafter, they rated themselves and how they felt about the judges.

The change in the feelings of self over time (also known as affective updating) in response to the review from the judges was demonstrated using an adapted Rescorla-Wagner learning model, in which learning is conceptualized in terms of associations between conditioned and unconditioned stimuli. The healthy participants exhibited a positivity bias in affective updating, which was absent in the subjects with SAD. Additionally, self-performance ratings showed group differences in learning from positive review. These outcomes showcases the long-term endurance of positively biased social learning about self in healthy adults, which is absent or reversed in SAD patients.

Take feedback positively to build self-esteem

SAD can be treated successfully and overcome with patience, an effective therapy and under the proper guidance of a behavioral health specialist. The treatment of social anxiety primarily includes behavioral group therapies. During such sessions, individuals are taught the ways to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Moreover, they can work on their anxiety with other group members and manage their anxiety in real life. A therapy provides the required and specific strategies to manage emotions, thoughts, beliefs and perceptions.

If you or your loved one is struggling with any anxiety disorder, contact the Anxiety Treatment Advisors of Colorado. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-891-2539 to connect with the best anxiety disorders treatment centers in Colorado. Alternatively, you can also chat online with our medical representatives for accessing information pertaining to anxiety disorders treatment in Colorado.

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