For millions of Americans and people around the world, social anxiety is a debilitating condition that can lead to depression and other symptoms. Beyond individual symptoms, social anxiety is known to detract from overall quality of life. Given the tumultuous years of adolescence and young adulthood thereafter, it comes as little surprise that a high percentage of those with social anxiety disorder are under the age of 25.
A litany of treatments from cognitive behavioral therapy to specific medications are often indicated for the condition. But a new study performed by a team from the psychology faculty of Philadelphia’s Temple University suggests that a little “order” can go a long way towards helping to quell the tide of anxiety. Aside from its more obvious importance, the study’s implications transcend the scope of social anxiety treatment.
The study took advantage of its setting and assessed a group of 40 local students with social anxiety. Half of the group was assigned a 25-minute writing exercise covering their own analysis of a recent negative social situation they experienced, while the other half was given a battery of specific, detailed questions to answer briefly. Emphasizing the difference between open-ended “free writing” and structured, succinct answering, the researchers aimed to reveal whether order was more beneficial for the subjects in alleviating anxious symptoms.
While many from the group that was given a long writing assignment experienced a worsening of symptoms, none of the students who answered the structured questionnaires reported further difficulties. Confident that the introduction of order into an otherwise frenetic or over-emotional thinking pattern can help to stabilize an individual, the team has published their work in the journal “Behavioral Research and Therapy,” and may bring powerful knowledge to the treatment of anxiety within the context of counseling and therapy. Open-ended analyses of one’s own experiences or feelings may prove ineffectual in the long term, while more organized approaches may help sessions achieve greater impact.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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