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New study seeks understanding of effects of social phobia


Social phobia or social anxiety disorder is a common and distressing problem that can cause sufferers immense difficulties in all areas of their lives, affecting their performance at work and personal relationships.

Now, a team of researchers at the University of Southampton is about to embark on a study which aims to develop a better understanding of how emotions such as social phobia affect sufferers’ thinking and attention. Their findings could help to develop strategies in the future to treat people who experience high levels of anxiety in social situations.

Social phobia is much more severe than just shyness. It is characterised by a marked fear or dread of social situations and of behaving in an embarrassing way whilst talking or meeting with other people, especially strangers. Up to one in ten people experience some degree of social phobia and almost twice as many women are affected than men.

The research team is currently looking to recruit volunteers in the Southampton area to take part in the study. Volunteers should be aged between 18 and 65 years and regularly experience high levels of personal distress in social or performance situations. They may also avoid these kinds of situations altogether in order to avoid becoming distressed.

The study will involve a short interview during which participants will be asked about their experiences. They will then have to complete a short series of computer-based tasks and a number of questionnaires. Where appropriate, there will be an opportunity to discuss possible treatment options with members of the research team.
Dr David Baldwin, a Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry in the University’s School of Medicine who is one of the leaders of the research team, says: ‘This new study builds on our earlier work in this area. We aim to develop a better understanding of the relationships between emotions, thinking and attention to different types of information. We hope the findings will prove useful in devising new treatment approaches for this common and very upsetting medical condition.’

The research is being carried out in collaboration between researchers in the Schools of Psychology and Medicine and doctors in the Mood Disorders Service at the Royal South Hants Hospital in Southampton.

Sarah Watts | alfa
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