New model might offer new form of therapy for social anxiety

New research being conducted at Ariel university maps various mental disorders through the “positive strengths” model of psychology.

A team of doctors discuss mental health (Illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A team of doctors discuss mental health (Illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Behavioral scientists at Ariel University are trying to replace the need for psychiatric treatment for people suffering from social anxiety with psychological treatment that has much less stigma.
A new study sets down six criteria for diagnosing and treating the problem, which affects between 12% and 15% of the population.
The research is part of a study, conducted by Pavel Friedlin under the direction of Prof. Hadassah Littman-Ovadia, a senior faculty member at Ariel University’s behavioral sciences department, to map various mental disorders through the “positive strengths” model of psychology.
Inadequate strengths by which social anxiety can be diagnosed are: 1. Excessive use of social intelligence: Over-analyzing your thoughts and feelings and those of others.
2. Excessive use of humility: You have almost no interest in talking about yourself or your accomplishments, and when people praise you for doing something good, you feel uncomfortable and embarrassed.
3. Lack of enthusiasm: If others perceive you as lacking energy and vitality when you create closeness with them, you may be perceived as motivated by a personal interest and not as someone genuinely interested in being close to them.
4. Lack of humor: In certain social situations you are especially serious and don’t smile, laugh or joke around. While this may sometimes be appropriate behavior, there are situations where humor is especially important.
5. Lack of social intelligence: People with social anxiety may also misinterpret clues and body language. One may not be particularly attentive to one’s feelings or those of others. One may not notice social cues, body language or the circumstances of a social situation.
6. Lack of self-regulation: You have some trouble managing your responses to others or your own feelings or habits. You may be perceived as lacking discipline in your speech and behavior.
As part of this study, participants with and without social-anxiety disorder were asked to answer a questionnaire to diagnose social anxiety. The study found that there is a unique combination of excessive or reduced use of six character strengths, which allows the identification of people with social-anxiety disorder with a level of accuracy no less than that of psychiatrists and other clinicians.
An inappropriate or excessive use of character strengths can cause antagonism from your environment. For example, if you appear too curious by asking multiple questions, you may be perceived as a “nudnik” who enters areas not meant for you; not being gracious or generous can make you appear to be stingy, the researchers said.