How a mindfulness-based approach can treat social anxiety disorder

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Jeena Cho, Forbes: In social settings involving other people, such as the first day of school, giving a presentation in front of coworkers or joining a new social group, it’s common for people to feel a little nervous or anxious. Usually, those feelings dissipate as you grow comfortable with the people you’re with or the setting in general.

But if the thought of being in social settings makes you feel overwhelmingly stressed, uncomfortable or even stops you from participating at all, you might have social anxiety disorder.

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is defined as “a fear of social situations in which embarrassment may occur or there is a risk of being negatively evaluated by others,” according to the American Psychology Association (APA). Also referred to as social phobia, the condition is characterized by the constant fear of one or more social situations in which a person thinks they will say or do something to humiliate themselves. About 7% percent of people in the U.S.—15 million adults—are affected by social anxiety disorder[1].

Essentially, it’s anxiety about what other people think, says Angela Neal-Barnett, a psychologist and director of Kent State University’s Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders among African Americans. “Social anxiety can occur because we believe that when we are with or in front of other people, they will think negatively about us,” says Neal-Barnett.

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