Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder in which people have intense fear in social situations. People who suffer from this illness have difficulty conversing with others, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings because they are afraid of being judged or scrutinised by others. Loneliness is the sensation of being alone due to a lack of love and companionship. Despite having similar symptoms, loneliness and social anxiety are caused by different brain states, according to new research.
The study was published in the journal “JNeurosci” and was titled “Behavioral and Neural Dissociation of Social Anxiety and Loneliness.”
Loneliness can have negative effects on physical and mental health, but unlike other illnesses, there are currently few behavioural therapies for loneliness. In a social gambling assignment, Lieberz et al. compared how participants with social anxiety and high and low loneliness reacted in a social gambling assignment to see what was at the root of these two conditions.
Participants played a computer game in which they had the option of making a safe bet and winning a smaller amount of money or taking a riskier wager and winning a greater sum. They watched a video of a simulated human displaying praise or disapproval if they took the riskier bet.
To avoid social feedback from the videos, people with social anxiety tended to take the safe bet more often. People with a high level of loneliness, on the other hand, did not show this social aversion. The researchers discovered that people with social anxiety had increased amygdala activation during the decision phase — a sign of heightened anxiety — and reduced nucleus accumbens activation during the feedback phase — a sign of reduced social reward — by using fMRI to track their brain activity during the task.