The defining feature of social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation. People with social anxiety disorder may worry about acting or appearing visibly anxious (e.g., blushing, stumbling over words), or being viewed as stupid, awkward, or boring. As a result, they often avoid social or performance situations, and when a situation cannot be avoided, they experience significant anxiety and distress. Many people with social anxiety disorder also experience strong physical symptoms, such as a rapid heart rate, nausea, and sweating, and may experience full-blown attacks when confronting a feared situation. Although they recognize that their fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder often feel powerless against their anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is commonly treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of therapy that first became popular in the 1980s and 1990s for treating anxiety disorders. Research has shown that CBT is a form of therapy that reliably helps in overcoming clinical anxiety disorders.
Goals of CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder
One of the central goals of CBT is to identify irrational beliefs and thought patterns and replace them with more realistic views. As part of the therapy process, you will work on a number of problem areas including:
misperceptions you may have about your abilities and self-worth
guilt, embarrassment, or anger over past situations
how to be more assertive
tackling perfectionism and being more realistic
dealing with procrastination related to social anxiety
As a person suffering from SAD, at some point in your life, someone has probably told you to just “think positive.” Unfortunately, the problem is not that simple to solve; if it were, you likely would have overcome your anxiety long ago. Because your brain has become hardwired over time to think negatively and has anxious thoughts, it needs to be gradually trained to think in a new way. Just telling yourself “I will be less anxious next time” doesn’t work, given your current way of thinking.
Changing negative automatic thinking in the long term requires practice and repetition, every day for several months. At first, you might be asked simply to catch negative automatic thoughts and make them rationally neutral. As this becomes easier, you would work your way up to thoughts that are more realistic. Only then does it become automatic and habitual.
Over time, your memory processes will be affected and the neural pathways in your brain will be altered. You will begin to think, act, and feel differently, but it will take persistence, practice, and patience for progress to be made. At first, this is a conscious process but as it is practiced and repeated it becomes automatic.
Despite the availability of effective treatments, fewer than 5% of people of with social anxiety disorder seek treatment in the year following initial onset and more than a third of people report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.
Everyone has anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety can interfere with your quality of life. While perhaps most recognized for behavioral changes, anxiety can also have serious consequences on your physical health.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is very effective in the treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder. I can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively we can arrange for therapy via skype.