Distorted View of Relationships Behind Social Anxiety Disorder

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People that suffer from social anxiety disorder find it hard to interact with other people and make friends. Negative perceptions of friendships they already have may contribute to that difficulty.

Thomas Rodebaugh, PhD, of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, and colleagues interviewed 122 adults, including some without social anxiety disorder. Each participant was asked to bring a friend with them, who also took part in the study.

Individuals with social anxiety disorder tended to report that their friendship with the person they brought with them wasn’t that good compared to individuals without the disorder who said their friendships were strong, the researchers reported in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

The friends of those with social anxiety disorder were inclined to have a more positive view of their friendship. The misperceptions in the anxiety group were strongest among younger people and those who chose newer friends.

“People who are impaired by high social anxiety typically think they are coming across much worse than they really are,” Rodebaugh said in a statement. “This new study suggests that the same is true in their friendships.

"Current treatments focus, in part, on helping people with social anxiety disorder see that they come across better than they expect they will,” he added.

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Distorted View of Relationships Behind Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder can make it incredibly difficult for people to interact with others and make friends. And according to a new study, people with the disorder also tend to have extremely warped perceptions of the friendships they do have.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found that social anxiety often causes people who suffer from the disorder to have distorted perceptions of their relationships. In reality, their friendships may be much stronger than they think.

While the term "social anxiety" is often used casually to indicate shyness, introversion or awkwardness, the anxiety disorder -- which is characterized by excessive and irrational fear of social situations -- is very real. Social phobia is a recognized psychiatric condition affecting over 19 million Americans. Its symptoms can range in severity, and include a fear of meeting new people, fear of judgment and rejection, declining social invitations, and refraining from attending events and work functions for fear of rejection.

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