Individuals with social phobia see themselves differently

Oct 06, 2008

Magnetic resonance brain imaging reveals that patients with generalized social phobia respond differently than others to negative comments about themselves, according to a report in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Generalized social phobia is characterized by fear/avoidance of social situations and fear of being judged negatively by others," the authors write as background information in the article. "It is the most common anxiety disorder in the general population, with the lifetime prevalence estimated at 13.3 percent, and it is associated with a high risk for depression, alcohol and drug abuse and suicide." Previous studies have found differences in the way brains of affected individuals respond to facial expressions, suggesting that the condition involves increased responsiveness to social stimuli in areas linked to emotion.

Karina Blair, Ph.D., and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md., compared functional MRI (fMRI) scans of 17 unmedicated individuals with generalized social phobia to those of 17 controls who were the same age and sex and had the same IQ but did not have the disorder. "During fMRI scans, individuals read positive (e.g., You are beautiful), negative (e.g., You are ugly) and neutral (e.g., You are human) comments that could be either about the self or about somebody else (e.g., He is beautiful)," the authors write.

The patients with generalized social phobia showed increased blood flow in their medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala—areas of the brain linked to concepts of self as well as fear, emotion and stress response—when reading negative statements about themselves. However, there were no differences between the two groups in response to negative comments referring to others or neutral or positive comments referring to either self or others.

"Given that medial prefrontal cortex regions are involved in representations of the self, it might be suggested that these regions, together with the amygdala, play a primary role in the development and maintenance of generalized social phobia and that the pathology in the disorder at least partly reflects a negative attitude toward the self, particularly in response to social stimuli—that in generalized social phobia what engages the mind is others' criticism," the authors conclude. "This highly context-dependent response in generalized social phobia helps constrain existing models of the disorder and may thus guide future therapeutic formulations in the treatment of the disorder."

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Thai parliament votes to ban commercial surrogacy (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tendency to fear is strong political influence

Feb 05, 2013

It's no secret that fear is a mechanism often used in political campaigns to steer public opinion on hot-button issues like immigration and war. But not everyone is equally predisposed to be influenced by such a strategy, ...

The dangers of the 'ballerina body'

Feb 24, 2011

With actress Natalie Portman in Oscar contention, the movie “Black Swan” has taken center stage. So have concerns surrounding the dramatic weight loss Portman underwent for the role. Her depiction of a dangerously ...

Getting sick from worry

Nov 18, 2010

Three years ago, Victor May began to wonder about an obscure protein. From nerve cells he was testing in his laboratory, "it looked as if it could be active in stress/anxiety pathways in the brain," he says, "but we didn't ...

Recommended for you

Thai parliament votes to ban commercial surrogacy (Update)

3 hours ago

Thailand's parliament has voted to ban commercial surrogacy after outrage erupted over the unregulated industry following a series scandals including the case of an Australian couple accused of abandoning a baby with Down's ...

Doctor behind 'free radical' aging theory dies

Nov 25, 2014

Dr. Denham Harman, a renowned scientist who developed the most widely accepted theory on aging that's now used to study cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses, has died in Nebraska at age 98.

Mexican boy who had massive tumor recovering

Nov 25, 2014

An 11-year-old Mexican boy who had pieces of a massive tumor removed and who drew international attention after U.S. officials helped him get treatment in the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico is still recovering after ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.