People With Social Phobia Have Different Self-Image

MRI reveals altered brain response to negative comments

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THURSDAY, Oct. 9, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- The brains of people with generalized social phobia actually respond differently than those of other people when reading criticism about themselves, a new report says.

Using MRI, researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health found that people with this anxiety disorder experienced increased blood flow in their medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala when reading negative statements about themselves. The prefrontal cortex and the amygdala are sections of the brain tied to awareness of oneself, as well as fear, emotion and stress response.

However, when they read negative comments about others or neutral or positive comments about themselves or others, the change in blood flow did not occur.

The report is published in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Generalized social phobia, the most common anxiety disorder in the general population, is marked by a person fearing and avoiding social situations and fearing negative judgment by others, the authors noted in background information in the report. Those with the disorder run a greater risk of depression, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and suicide attempts.

The authors concluded that the finding may guide the future development of therapies and treatments for the disorder.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about social phobias.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, Oct. 6, 2008


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