Can I overcome social anxiety? The answer is a resounding yes, but it normally requires 20 plus session of focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by an experienced Chartered Psychologist.
What are the key signs of social anxiety?
I blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their "mind going blank"
Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don't already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
Be very afraid that other people will judge them
Stay away from places where there are other people
What causes it?
Social anxiety disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others don't. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety. Some researchers think that misreading of others' behaviour may play a role in causing or worsening social anxiety. For example, you may think that people are staring or frowning at you when they truly are not. Underdeveloped social skills are another possible contributor to social anxiety. For example, if you have underdeveloped social skills, you may feel discouraged after talking with people and may worry about doing it in the future. By learning more about fear and anxiety in the brain, scientists may be able to create better treatments. Researchers are also looking for ways in which stress and environmental factors may play a role.
What would therapy help with?
CBT for social anxiety looks to identify key cognitive errors implicated with social anxiety such as the capacity to "mind read" or project your own internal negative appraisal onto the other person, the "I think this so they must" phenomenon. The focus would be on challenging the tendency to assume that others are judging or negatively evaluating us. It is about exploring the possibility that some people may be less judgemental or have more liberal standards of social interaction than us. There is also an emphasis on challenging a tendency to "people please" and seeking too much approval, this will also involve learning to handle rejection and criticism.
In cognitive therapy we spend a lot of time identifying unconscious/peripheral conscious negative thoughts based on incorrect assumptions and challenging these, ultimately replacing with more productive and rationale beliefs that we can then test out in real world experiments. This last point is an integral part of CBT for social anxiety, since challenging avoidance and other safety behaviours are often seen as ways in which we keep the problem going and prevent us from challenging faulty assumptions. For example, by not going to social events, we lose opportunities to challenge our fears about what will happen when we do.
If the above approach sounds as though it could be helpful and you want to find out more, please book at no obligation 10 minute chat from which you may decide to come in for an initial consultation. Please contact us via the contact page on this website.