The article provides an overview of research on social anxiety and fear of public speaking among students. It focuses on the possibility of psychological assistance with the methods using virtual reality.
The anxiety of public speaking, communication, or other public activities can be described as early signs of some anxiety and affective disorders, in particular, a social anxiety disorder. Anxiety of social interactions, which manifests as significant discomfort and can be qualified as a mental health disorder, is characteristic for 7-13% of population. People who are afraid of public actions face challenges in achieving career goals and can be described as less ambitious and purposeful. Based on the worked-out materials, the article author indicates that discomfort felt by students because of their social anxiety causes their financial losses, low economic stability, and the avoidance of possible career prospects.
According to the current scientific resources, the main problems associated with fear of public speaking are based on negative perceptions of themselves and ineffective strategies, which people use to resolve social situations. The searches for the best plan to feel “in safety” and fixed attention on minor discomforts during joint activities leads to student’s increased criticism concerning their own results and dissatisfaction with their achievements. It provokes problems with learning, their frequent absence at lessons, and social deprivation, which usually manifested by signs of burnout or depression.
Therefore, creating and implementation of appropriate, effective, and empirical evidence-based psychological support is an essential area of research and practice for mental health professionals.
The author notes that the recommended psychological therapy for specific and social phobias based on the cognitive-behavioural therapy can be supplemented by the virtual environment, which allows systematic and step-by-step overcoming and desensibilization of negative (traumatic) experiences of situations that anxious students try to avoid. The materials discussed in the article points to the achievement of psycho-emotional stability and the reduction of social anxiety during virtual exposure. The results of virtual exposure techniques used with students indicate decrease of their anxiety, reduction of negative automatic thoughts and improvement of their self-esteem, which contributes to restoring of their psychosocial functioning.
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