Social Anxiety Disorder or social phobia, is the third largest mental health care problem in the world. (Stein, 2010) National statistical surveys carried out in 2002 in the United Kingdom suggest that the prevalence rates for social phobias among young people in the UK were around 4%. (National Statistics, 2002)
‘Social phobia is characterised by intense and persistent fear of social situations in which scrutiny and embarrassment could occur’. (Orsillo & Hammond 2001, p.159) The individual with social phobia often feels they are being looked at, studied and critically analysed. Social anxiety is unlike other phobias in that it has the constant likelihood of being verified as being true. (Beck 2005, p.151)
Self-focussed attention has been described as ‘The engine that drives social phobia’ (2004, Bennett-Levy J, 2004, p.142) and self-focus is central to the Clark social phobia model. The type of self-focussed attention is not self-loving and accepting, it is instead negative and critical. I have not met a social phobic who thought others evaluated them positively all the time. It has a negative twist.
The socially phobic’s intuition and gut feelings often draws erroneous and sometimes illogical conclusions. These feelings are based on past experiences, which are often not valid and realistic to their present situation. Their childhood experiences have often included very authoritarian parents or guardians and/or bullying in school or college. The social phobic takes their feelings and thoughts very seriously and does not choose to question them. It is the role of therapy to help the social phobic to question their thoughts and feelings but most of all to throw away all their safety behaviours and take the risk of socialising with different situations and people. It is important to do cognitive restructuring and repeated exposure to anxious social situations as this leads to more enduring improvement in 75% of cases. (Clark & Beck,2010) There is a “marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur” DSM-IV-TR; APA, 2000, p.450) Social Phobics seem unable to assess friendly facial expressions. (Ballenger,2009) They have an enhanced vigilance to angry faces relative to happy and neutral faces. (Mogg,2004) This affects interpersonal functioning. (Joorman, 2006)
Socially phobics have high performance expectations and (Hertel, 2008)
also engage in more negative rumination than others, with the best predictors of rumination being social anxiety symptom severity and self-appraisals of performance. (Maree 2004,p143)
The fear of being evaluated in a negative light is not just feared, it is assumed. Jason appears to be a socially anxious extrovert. A socially anxious introvert is different. Jason says he cannot imagine why people would want to be alone. The socially anxious extrovert suffers greatly because he wants to be in the company of others and envies those who can...