Social anxiety sufferers sought for online treatment trial

Published 03 April 2009

social_anxietyAre you intensely shy? Does the thought of speaking in public have you quaking in your boots? Are you excessively worried about what other people think of you?

If this sounds like you, it’s possible you’re suffering from social anxiety, a term used to describe an experience of emotional discomfort, fear, apprehension or worry regarding social situations and being evaluated by other people.

Psychologists at the University of New England are seeking 160 participants for the trial of a Web-based intervention for social anxiety. If you are over 18, believe you suffer from social anxiety and want to reduce it, and are prepared to devote several hours a week for eight weeks to completing assignments and various therapeutic tasks, you may be eligible to participate in the trial.

“Social anxiety is a very common problem,” said Dr John Malouff, the UNE psychologist supervising the study, “affecting as much as 5 per cent of the population. What distinguishes social anxiety from mere shyness is the intensity of the negative emotions it causes and the excessive avoidance behaviours it leads to.

“While it is quite normal to get nervous before giving a speech, for instance, someone suffering from social anxiety may go to extraordinary lengths to avoid public speaking. This level of social anxiety can cut you out of whole careers, such as teaching, and mean you have a hard time making friends and forming relationships.

“People suffering from social anxiety may also be less likely to seek the help of a trained psychotherapist, which is why we want to determine whether this new, Web-based treatment could be an effective alternative for them.”

The techniques learned in the trial will include ways of changing automatic thinking and relaxation techniques.

To participate in the trial, contact Tamara Ferris by e-mail at tferris4@une.edu.au.