For Those With Social Anxiety, Acts of Kindness May Be Therapeutic

News Picture: For Those With Social Anxiety, Acts of Kindness May Be Therapeutic

FRIDAY, July 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- People with social anxiety who perform good deeds may have less trouble relaxing and interacting with others, new research finds.

These acts of kindness can boost feelings of happiness and foster positive views of the world. Over time, deeds that promote positive interactions may enable people with this disorder to socialize more easily, the Canadian researchers said.

"Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person's social environment," study co-author Jennifer Trew, of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, said in a journal news release. "It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations."

Social anxiety disorder causes people to feel threatened or anxious about mingling with others. It's more than just being shy. The disorder may make people feel so uncomfortable that they avoid socializing entirely to avoid angst or the possible embarrassment.

The four-week study involved 115 undergraduate students with high levels of social anxiety. The students were randomly divided into three groups. The first group was told to perform acts of kindness, such as doing a roommate's dishes, mowing a neighbor's lawn, or donating to a charity. The second group was exposed social interactions, but instructed to not engage in good deeds. The third group recorded what happened daily but these participants were not give any specific instructions on how to interact with others.

The study revealed the group that engaged in acts of kindness had the greatest reduction in their desire to avoid social interactions. This was especially true during the first part of the intervention, the study found.

The researchers concluded good deeds are a valuable tool to help people with social anxiety interact with others more easily by easing anxiety and fears of possible rejection.

Treatment strategies that involve doing good deeds can improve quality of life for people with social anxiety, the study published recently in the journal Motivation and Emotion concluded.

"An intervention using this technique may work especially well early on while participants anticipate positive reactions from others in response to their kindness," study co-author Lynn Alden, of the University of British Columbia, in a journal news release.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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SOURCE: Springer, news release, July 1, 2015.