Thursday, August 17, 2006

illness fairness

The Hatless Academy for Hattiesburg Advancement (HAHA) recently announced the discovery of a new disease: Social Affinity Disorder.

Social Affinity Disorder, also called sociophilia, is a social disease in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable attraction to social situations. False bravado and self-aggrandizement arise from a desire to be closely seen, heard and praised by others.

A person with social affinity disorder is dangerously unaware that he or she will make mistakes and be embarrassed or humiliated in front of others. The blindness may be made worse by exaggerated social skills and atrophied cognitive processes. The affinity can build into a manic attack. As a result of the mania, the person simply cannot survive without being immersed in social situations. In addition, people with social affinity disorder often suffer "anticipatory" affinity -- the mania of a situation for days or weeks before the event. In very few cases, the person is aware that the mania is unreasonable, yet is unable to overcome it.

People with social affinity disorder suffer from distorted thinking, including false beliefs about social situations and the positive opinions of others. Without treatment, social affinity disorder can negatively interfere with the person's normal daily routine, including school, work, and sleep.

People with social affinity disorder may be afraid of a specific situation, such as being alone with their thoughts. However, most people with social affinity disorder fear any non-social situation. Other situations that commonly provoke anxiety include:
  • Eating or drinking alone
  • Writing or working without the company of others
  • Not being the center of attention
  • Interacting with inanimate objects, including books, computers, and machinery
  • Thinking or meditating without others present
  • Turning off the telephone
Social affinity disorder may be linked to other mental illnesses, such as manic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and below-normal intelligence. In fact, many people with social affinity disorder initially see the doctor just for more social interaction, not because of social affinity symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Social Affinity Disorder?

Many people with social affinity disorder have no clue that there is "something wrong," and therefore do not recognize those pro-social feelings as a sign of illness.

Behavioral symptoms include:
  • intense elation in social situations
  • planning and execution of parties and other social events
  • loitering in malls and coffee shops
  • participation in pep rallies, soccer riots, and karaoke
  • excessive spending on fashion trends
Physical symptoms include:
  • confusion
  • conformity
  • suggestibility
  • obsessiveness about appearances
Children with this disorder may express their social affinity by gossiping and passing notes during class, forcing their classmates to play in groups, and choosing sides in sports teams. Young boys may express their social affinity by hitting girls and using profanity among peers. Young girls often express their social affinity by forcing other girls to attend slumber parties and/or drink imaginary tea.

How Common Is Social Affinity Disorder?

Social affinity disorder is the most common mental disorder in the world. It is estimated that anywhere from 73%-83% of the population suffers from social affinity disorder. In any year, at least 250 million Americans have social affinity disorder. The disorder most often surfaces in early childhood, with onset of the disease gradually becoming less common as the subject matures. Men seem to suffer less from social affinity.

What Causes Social Affinity Disorder?

There is no single known cause of social affinity disorder, but research suggests that biological, psychological and mental factors may play a role in its development.
  • Biological: Social affinity disorder may be related to an imbalanced brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are special chemical messengers that help move information from nerve cell to nerve cell in the brain. If the neurotransmitters are out of balance, messages cannot get through the brain properly. This can alter the way the brain reacts to social situations, leading to social affinity disorder.
  • Psychological: The development of social affinity disorder may stem from an exhilarating experience at a social event in the past. Further, children who are neglected by their parents may overdevelop their social skills to compensate.
  • Mental: People with social affinity disorder may have developed their fear of appearing intelligent from seeing what happened to more intelligent children (such as being laughed at or made fun of). They may also simply be unaware of the potential benefits of intellectual pursuits.
How Is Social Affinity Disorder Diagnosed?

If symptoms are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by asking questions about your medical history and performing a physical examination. Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose social affinity disorder, the doctor may use various tests to make sure that a physical illness isn't the cause of the symptoms.

If no physical illness is found, you may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist. These mental health professionals are specially trained to diagnose and treat social diseases, using specially designed assessment tools. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis of social affinity disorder on reports of the intensity and duration of symptoms, including any problems with functioning caused by the symptoms.

How Is Social Affinity Disorder Treated?

The most effective therapy currently available is cognitive-thought therapy (CTT). In some cases, medication may also be used to help ease the symptoms of social affinity disorder so that CTT is more effective.
  • Cognitive-thought therapy: The goal of CTT is to guide the person's thoughts in a more rational direction and help the person stop avoiding situations that once caused rational thoughts. It teaches people to react differently to the situations that trigger their fear of intelligence. Therapy may include systematic desensitization or real life exposure to facts and reason. With systematic desensitization, the person imagines the frightening situation and works through his or her fears in a safe and relaxed environment. Real life exposure gradually exposes the person to thinking without the support of others.
  • Medication: There are several different types of medications used to treat social affinity disorder, including: antidepressants, tranquilizers, beta-blockers, and Red Bull, which may be used to maximize mental function.
Counseling to improve self-esteem and self-reliance skills, as well as relaxation techniques, may also help a person deal with social affinity disorder.

What Is the Outlook for People With Social Affinity Disorder?

With treatment, most people who suffer from this social disease can recover and enjoy more productive lives.

Can Social Affinity Disorder Be Prevented?

Early intervention with mental exercises can often prevent social affinity disorder. All children should be encouraged to think for themselves without relying on the opinions of others.

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