Assessment and Treatment of Social Phobia
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Social phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by heightened fear and avoidance of one or more social or performance situations, including public speaking, meeting new people, eating or writing in front of others, and attending social gatherings. People with social phobia are typically anxious about the possibility that others will evaluate them negatively and/or notice symptoms of their anxiety. Social phobia affects up to 13% of individuals at some time in their lives and is usually associated with at least moderate functional impairment. Research on the nature and treatment of social phobia has increased dramatically over the past decade. As with many of the anxiety disorders, sensitive assessment instruments and effective treatments now exist for people suffering from heightened social anxiety. Typical assessment strategies include clinical interviews, behavioural assessments, monitoring diaries, and self-report questionnaires. Treatments with demonstrated efficacy for social phobia include pharmacotherapy (for example, phenelzine, moclobemide, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor [SSRI] medications) and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) (for example, cognitive restructuring, in vivo exposure, social skills training). Although preliminary comparative studies suggest that both approaches are about equally effective in the short term, each approach has advantages and disadvantages over the other. Trials examining combined psychological and pharmacological treatments are now under way, although no published data on the relative efficacy of combined treatments are currently available.
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