爱思英语编者按:你会因为担心自己在别人面前出丑而变得害羞,进而拒绝与他人沟通吗?你曾在公众场合幻想自己消失?注意!你可能患上了社交恐惧症 (social phobia)!

Recognizing a SAD fact

Before finally accepting a position as department head, Wu Ting turned down three promotion opportunities in the past 20 years just so she could avoid giving presentations at large gatherings. 

Wu works for a State-owned corporation in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. Not long after joining the company, she was asked to convey to her colleagues the proceedings of a meeting that she had attended. 

The then green hand was left speechless, unable to recollect anything from the meeting. 

That was the start of Wu's fear of speaking in front of more than five people.

The psychological problem that has bothered Wu for two decades is known as social anxiety disorder (SAD), or social phobia, and is characterized by a distracting nervousness in large gatherings and a powerful desire to avoid such situations. 

"I felt awkward and kept thinking I was not worthy," Wu told her doctor. 

As a result, every time the 38-year-old was given new, higher responsibilities, she would apply for a transfer to another department, so she could work as a junior staff member. http://www.24en.com爱思英语网

The symptoms of SAD are often put down to shyness and hence the condition is still largely ignored in China, says Zhang Mingyuan, a doctor with Shanghai Mental Health Center. 

Sufferers like Wu fear putting themselves through an evaluation by others, convinced that such assessment will be negative and embarrassing. 

In most cases, the dread is either caused by self-contempt from an embarrassing experience like Wu's, or negative comments from those with whom the victim has significant social interactions, such as family members, teachers or colleagues. 

Zhang adds that even seeing the doctor is distressing to those suffering from social phobia. Constrained by awkward feelings, they are inclined to avoid being diagnosed. 

While there is no official figure of people suffering from SAD in China, an estimate given by Professor Zhang Xinkai, of the School of Medicine of Shanghai Jiaotong University, to China Newsweek puts the figure as "at least 30 million". 

"The increase in the number of patients hints at a large group of sufferers," he says, adding that this may also reflect people's increasing awareness of the disorder. http://www.24en.com爱思英语网

He says that while being shy is normal, it is when the shyness interferes with an individual's daily communication with colleagues and others and becomes tortuous, that it becomes a disorder. 

Patients coming to the center can be grouped into two age groups, 19 to 25, and 40 to 50, says Meng Jingya, a doctor at the mental health center of West China Hospital. http://www.24en.com爱思英语网

Meng says young patients, many of whom are senior high school and university graduates, often come to see the doctor with their parents. Most find it hard to adapt to the changes from high school to university, or to life after graduation. 

Parents fail to cultivate the social skills of their children during their school years, as parents, teachers and society in general focus mainly on their academic performance, Meng says. 

In a few cases, there is a genetic link, with the afflicted youngsters' parents also showing symptoms of SAD.

Those aged between 40 and 50 are often under heavy pressure from work, family and social relationships, and these may cause SAD. 

The younger the age, the better the treatment's efficacy, Meng says. For most young patients, a 10-session group therapy over three months can produce marked results. http://www.24en.com爱思英语网

In mild cases, just one or two sessions of group therapy is all that is required. 

Zhang Wei recalls how Wu Ting attended six therapy sessions and learnt relaxation techniques, besides rehearsing presentations. She finally succeeded in facing her supervisors to detail her accomplishments. 

But for those suffering from severe symptoms, medication may be necessary, Meng says. They may also have to be put through further individual therapy, he adds.