I have written before about social anxiety: Social Anxiety Disorder is more than just shyness or nervousness. While many people get nervous or self-conscious on occasions, Social Anxiety Disorder involves an intense fear of certain social situations — especially situations that are unfamiliar or in which people feel that they will be judged by others; and where they are afraid that they won’t “measure up” or that they will be exposed as inferior. Just thinking about such situations may cause them to get anxious and they may go to great lengths to avoid them, disrupting their lives in the process.
And it is not unusual, nor confined to adults. Social anxiety is one of the most common psychological disorders amongst children and adolescents – and it has profound effects on their psychological states and academic achievements. The lifetime prevalence of Social Anxiety Disorder is 9.5% in females and 4.9% in males; the six-month prevalence rate is about 2% – 3%; yet and among high-school adolescents this rate increases to 5% – 10%. Children and adolescents diagnosed with social anxiety are prone to academic problems, drug abuse, long periods of disability, and considerable pathologies in their daily lives and social relationships.
In summary, it’s a significant problem for adolescents… and especially for girls.
So, I was encouraged to read of a paper published in 2016 investigating the effectiveness of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to reduce social anxiety and to increase self-esteem in adolescent females diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. (Here.)
The research identified high school girls (mean age 14) as subjects by using the established (DSM-VI-TR-Axis) criteria for Social Anxiety Disorder; and then randomly accolated them to an “intervention group” and a control group. The Intervention group were given eight weekly MBCT sessions and asked to work on MBCT mediations at home. The two groups were assessed before and after the intervention: the Social Phobia Inventory was used to assess social phobia and social anxiety; and Rosenburg’s Self Esteem Scale was used to measure the self-esteem of the participants.
Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) questionnaire was developed in order to assess social anxiety or social phobia. This inventory is a self-assessment scale with 17 items including three subscales of phobia (6 items), avoidance (7 items), and physiological distress (4 items). Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) is a 10-item scale is to measure self-esteem. Originally, the scale was designed to assess the self-esteem of high school students. However, since its development, the scale has been used with a wider variety of groups including adults.
So, what did the study show? The results showed that the social anxiety scores of the intervention group showed a significant decrease compared to their pre-test results, and the mean of the self-esteem scores of the intervention group members showed an increase compared to their pre-test results. These changes were not observed in the control group. For the intervention group the mean SPIN score was reduced from 26.07 to 21.50 and the RSES scored increased from 0.89 to 2.58.
The researchers concluded: “The results revealed that the MBCT sessions significantly decreased social anxiety and increased self-esteem among the female adolescents suffering from social anxiety.”
So, if you are o someone you know is feeling anxious in social situations and have low self-esteem then MBCT may well be beneficial. Try it.