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Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is one of the
most common psychiatric disorders. Although sometimes dismissed as
shyness, social anxiety disorder can cause crippling fear that
interferes with school attendance, work performance, and
relationships. It affects about 7% of Americans in any given year,
and about 12% at some point in their lives.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) lists criteria for diagnosing
social anxiety disorder and describes how the disorder may manifest
differently in children and adults. About half of the people with
this disorder experience anxiety only in specific situations,
particularly those involving some type of public performance such
as speaking in front of people. Others have the generalized form,
experiencing fear in almost any social situation.
Although many people occasionally get nervous at parties or at
other public events, what distinguishes social anxiety disorder is
the severity of distress and impairment that result. For example,
research suggests that youths with this disorder are more likely
than peers to drop out of high school. Adults with social anxiety
disorder are more likely than others to miss work. Even intimate
relationships are affected — one reason that people with social
anxiety disorder are less likely than others to marry.
Yet because the symptoms are often dismissed as trivial, only about
half of people with social anxiety disorder ever receive treatment
— typically after experiencing symptoms for at least 10 years
before seeking help. That's unfortunate, because both psychotherapy
and medication can help reduce symptoms for most people.
Neurofeedback is an investigational therapy being tested and
marketed for a variety of psychiatric and substance abuse
disorders. Most of the research on neurofeedback has evaluated its
use for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Although sometimes likened to physical therapy for the brain,
neurofeedback is actually a form of biofeedback. The goal is to
help a patient learn how to control an unconscious physiological
function — in this case, electrical activity in the brain. In
psychological terms, neurofeedback attempts operant conditioning,
in which a person learns to modify behavior based on rewards and
About two dozen studies have been published about neurofeedback for
ADHD, and many have reported promising results. But most of them
involved only small numbers of patients, were not randomized, and
lacked a placebo intervention. As such, they lacked controls for
confounding mechanisms such as attention training or bias on the
part of investigators or participants.
Only three randomized controlled studies have been published on
neurofeedback for ADHD and are available through Medline. The most
recent, also the best designed, reported positive results, although
The level of lead in the blood of Americans has decreased
dramatically since the 1970s, but research is suggesting that
even low-level exposure may result in learning and behavior
problems in children.
Taking an omega-3 supplement along with an antidepressant for
major depression and heart disease was not any more effective
than taking only the antidepressant.
What is a medical home? And is it useful for people with mental
My elderly uncle can't seem to recover from the loss of his dog.
Is it normal to grieve for months when a pet dies? When is it
time to encourage him to seek mental health help?