Extremely shy? You need therapy

May 1st, 2009 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, May 1 (IANS) Extreme shyness can hold people back in social situations, prevent them from meeting other people or even going on a date. Such people need cognitive behaviour therapy, say researchers.
While just about all of us would admit to being shy from time to time in social situations, about one in 20 people suffer from an extreme form of shyness known as social phobia.

Current treatments including cognitive therapy and the common-sense system of teaching people practical skills to manage their fears, can achieve good results.

However, researchers have been trying to refine the process even further to improve outcomes.

A recent study, led by Macquarie University researchers, showed that with a few adjustments to existing cognitive behaviour therapy, outcomes for people with social phobia can improve dramatically.

Improved treatment included giving sufferers clear, detailed feedback about their social performance and teaching them how to better focus their attention when feeling frightened.

Participants in the study were divided into small groups. After learning some basic anxiety management techniques, they were gradually encouraged to face their fears over 12 weekly sessions.

At the end of the treatment, over 40 percent of participants showed large and dramatic changes in how they coped with their fears while many others showed good improvements.

Ron Rapee, a professor at the university, who led the study, says people with social phobia have high levels of shyness, and worry other people will think badly of them, said a Maguire release.

“When a shy person feels they are the centre of attention, they immediately assume that the attention is negative and they are being judged and found lacking in some way. As a result, they avoid social activities most of us take for granted such as meeting new people, going on dates, talking to authority figures, and speaking in public,” he says.

The study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

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