Sunday, December 14, 2008

Social anxiety disorder

(aka generalized social phobia or GSP)

No one likes to be criticized, but criticism affects some more than others. I believe, for instance, that women who are unable to extract themselves from abusive relationships are more likely to react strongly and fearfully to criticism which further traps them in a toxic bond. Psychiatrists at the National Institute of Mental Health theorized that individuals with GSP who are fearful of social situations may demonstrate a stronger brain reaction to criticism than persons free of such anxieties.

They performed functional magnetic resonance imaging scans on subjects with GSP and controls. While under observation, the scanees read comments such as "You are ugly" "You are quite the looker" or "He'd look better with a paper bag over his head."

The GSP victims got all hot and oxygenated in their medial frontal cortices (brain area in charge of representation of self) and their amygdalae (brain area responsible for fear reactions) when they were slipped a slip with a personal insult. They had no such reaction to praise, nor did negative comments about others raise their amygdaloid activity.

Comments such as 'buck up honey, all those people are human just like you and they all go to the bathroom just like you' are unlikely, therefore to change the neural activity of those with GSP. Anti-anxiety agents that tone down the amygdala are helpful, and further research into changing neural circuitry is anticipated.

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