Social Phobia Not The Same As Shyness

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Social phobia, considered a controversial diagnosis, according to a new report, is a legitimate psychiatric condition but it is a different entity from that of shyness. This is according to a government report based on a national survey. The researchers found out cases of social phobia among teenagers who described themselves as shy, while some of them actually did not report shyness.

“Shyness is not necessarily social phobia and that’s the point of our paper,” noted Kathleen Merikangas of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Meirikangas’ team also stated that her team was able to find out that fewer than eight percent of teenagers with social phobia shared that they have been treated with antidepressants. In the new report published in the journal Pediatrics, it is suggested that social phobia is not a concept which was created in the list of psychiatric disorders in order to sell medications among people who experience emotions like shyness and the like.

“I think their article is a welcome reminder that psychiatric diagnoses aren’t some kind of conspiracy on the part of the pharmaceutical industry,” according to Ian Dowbiggin, a historian and the author of The Quest for Mental Health: A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow, and Mass Society.

According to Dowbiggin, the findings do not counter and argue with the idea that “social phobia” is just a new label for experiences and characteristics that were considered to be normal.

“They left out the whole debate about how much our society and culture influence the way people report their emotional states,” Dowbiggin told the reporters. “We are currently living in a culture of ‘therapism,’” he said. “It encourages shy people to conclude that they suffer from a significant impairment in their social functioning.”

Based on the National Institute of Mental Health, social phobia is defined as “persistent, intense and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions.”

“Many of these kids won’t go to school on days they have to speak in class, or they won’t go to parties,” she told Reuters Health. “They are so upset by having to be in some of these social contexts that it really does impair their educational performance.”

Merikangas shared that a lot of teenagers suffering from social phobia can be alleviated by proper schooling, talk therapy or pharmaceutical means like antidepressants.

Merikangas team also learned that adolescents who come close to the APA’s criteria for the said disorder were more likely to show signs of depression, also have behavioral problems. These kids also tend to abuse drugs than those kids who just consider themselves shy.

The team assessed the teenagers’ shyness by asking them to rate their “shyness around people their own age who they didn’t know very well” using a four-point scale. They also asked parents of these children to rate their own kids with the same scale.

About half of the more than 10,000 U.S. teens who were involved in the survey shared that they were indeed shy to some degree, whereas only about nine percent met the criteria for social phobia.




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