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Social anxiety helped with virtual scenarios

24th June 2013

Research suggests that those suffering from social anxiety may be helped by taking part in virtual scenarios.

anxiety
 
New imaging technology was used for participants to rehearse their behaviour, including eye contact and small talk, in a range of social settings.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia designed over 100 virtual scenarios, such as using public transport, buying a drink at a bar and socialising at a party. They then asked six participants recovering from psychosis who have debilitating social anxiety to take part in the video scenes. The participants were able to see their own life-size image projected onto a real-time video scene while experiencing social interaction.

Dr Lina Gega, of the university's Norwich Medical School, said: "People with social anxiety are afraid that they will draw attention to themselves and be negatively judged by others in social situations.

"Many will either avoid public places and social gatherings altogether, or use safety behaviours to cope, such as not making eye contact.

"Paradoxically, this sort of behaviour draws attention to people with social anxiety and feeds into their beliefs that they don't fit in.

"We wanted to see whether practising social situations in a virtual environment could help."

Researchers found that when used alongside therapy, these virtual environments helped participants take notice of, rehearse, and change their anxious behaviour.

By the end of the study, the participants were able to take greater social risks.

 

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