The holiday season is almost upon us -- with the end of the American Thanksgiving and Black Friday it is almost certainly just about here. With the change in season comes the time of year that many people dread -- when the aisles of shops and stores are jam-packed. It can be a difficult time for everyone to get out, but particularly for those with social anxiety.
I have been watching with interest the unfolding scandal of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. For those who haven't heard the story -- in essence he was caught on video smoking crack cocaine, and lied about doing it. Add to that public drunkenness and another video of him in some sort of altered mental state making threats against another man's life.
Have you heard of a company called "23 and Me"? I hadn't until a few days ago, when I started pondering the genetic causes of social anxiety disorder. Would it be possible to have your DNA tested for the risk of developing social anxiety? Obviously science hasn't advanced to the point that your doctor can swab your tongue and you get back results that indicate your risk for SAD. Then again, maybe we are not that far off.
In April of this year, researchers Charles Grob, M.D. and Alicia Danforth, Ph.D. received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration to conduct a study looking at the effects of MDMA (also known as the street drug "Ecstasy") on autistic adults with social anxiety.
That same study just got the green light from the Research Advisory Panel of California and the Institutional Review Board at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center/Los Angeles Biomedical Research Insitute.
In a recent study published in the journal "Social Neuroscience," researchers Scott Stoltenberg and Christa Christ of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Gustavo Carlo of the University of Missouri studied the relationship between prosocial behavior (such as volunteering), social anxiety, and the serotonin transporter gene regulatory region (5-HTTLPR).
This morning I signed up for a 5k run. I know it's not much compared with those who run marathons, triathlons, and iron-man mega-thons (or those who swim from Cuba to Florida), but for me it's a good goal after a year of not exercising too much.
I've noticed recently that we are moving beyond the typical "race" events to those that test mental strength in addition to physical ability. Events such as "Warrior Dash" and "Tough Mudder" test your mettle to overcome obstacles along the race that are as much mentally challenging as they are physical.
Over the coming months I am putting together a free e-course called "What to Expect from CBT for SAD" which outlines what you can expect from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for social anxiety disorder (SAD) over a 16 week period. Those who want to can also follow along and do assigned reading and homework for each of the 16 "sessions."
A team of researchers at Stanford University have shown what we already believed to be true; cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in reducing symptoms of social anxiety and changes the behavior of the brain.
I had a reminder this week that life is short. When bad things happen, or we lose people that we love too soon, it is hard. But it's also a reminder that we don't have a lot of time on this earth. We all have a limited number of years, weeks, days, hours and seconds left.