Sarah walks into a crowded classroom on her first day at her new university. She tries to remain inconspicuous as she slides into a seat at the back of the room. A few minutes later, the instructor walks through the door. He goes around the room, asking the students to introduce themselves to their classmates. As Sarah's turn to speak approaches, her heart beats rapidly, her body trembles, sweat forms on her forehead, breathing becomes difficult, and a nauseus feeling overcomes her. She quietly thinks, “What if I say something embarrassing? What if I sound stupid?” Sarah sinks deeper into her seat, desperately hoping that the instructor will skip her.
Sarah, the fictional character described in the paragraph above, suffers from social phobia (also called social anxiety disorder). According to the DSM-IV, social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is “a marked and persistent fear of one or more social performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or possible scrutiny by others” (American Psychiatric Association). Social phobia is much more common than one might assume. It is ranked as the third most common pyschiatric disorder (Beidel, Turner, 19). Research in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry has proven that the three main factors that work together to cause social phobia are genes, brain composition, and life experiences. Studies have also shown that common effects of social phobia include an inability to form satisfying interpersonal relationships, limited academic and occupational opportunities, and alcohol or drug abuse.
When analyzing the causes of social phobia, life events must be considered first. Ina Marteinsdottir and her colleagues, researchers at the Uppsala Unive...
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