What are the differences in how a psychoanalyst and behaviorist conceptualize social anxiety (social phobia)?

Updated: Mar 27, 2019
  • Author: Nita V Bhatt, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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Answer

A psychoanalyst would likely conceptualize social anxiety as a symptom of a deeper conflict-for instance, low self-esteem or unresolved conflicts with internal objects. A behaviorist would see phobia as a learned, conditioned response resulting from a past association with a situation with negative emotional valence at the time of association (eg, social situations are avoided because intense anxiety was originally experienced in that setting). Even if no danger is posed in most social encounters, an avoidance response has been linked to these situations. Treatment from this perspective aims to weaken and eventually separate the specific response from the stimulus.


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