If you’re like most people, you’ve probably experienced social anxiety. It’s that nervous, sometimes frightened feeling you get when you’re in a situation that involves other people. Many people can relate to feeling social anxiety about public speaking; others find themselves feeling anxious about what to say in a conversation with a co-worker or when they’re out on a date. According to Mental Health America, seven percent of American adults suffer from social anxiety disorder. The underlying fear of those with social anxiety is that people will think negatively about them and judge them harshly. This can cause a person suffering from social anxiety to avoid experiences with others thereby reinforcing their beliefs rather than challenging them. The good news is that social anxiety is treatable. Listed below are some tips for educating yourself and reaching out for help:
1. Read a self-help book. A good first step in overcoming social anxiety is learning all you can about it. For example, while there may be a genetic component involved, a person’s family environment and other important experiences may be equally important in explaining where his or her social anxiety comes from. There are lots of great books on the subject of social anxiety. For two examples, check out Managing Social Anxiety by Debra Hope and How to Be Yourself by Ellen Hendriksen.
2. Find help online. Sometimes there’s nothing more comforting than reading about the experiences of others who have overcome what we are currently struggling with. For stories about people living with social anxiety, check out the website The Mighty here and for more information about social anxiety in general, check out PsychCentral here and National Institute of Mental Health here
3. Join a support group. Being part of a group where other members are working on the same goal as you are can be very powerful. It’s also a safe and supportive place to learn and practice new skills. Check out the Anxiety & Depression Center’s 13-week virtual Social Anxiety support group here. For additional support group ideas, go to Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website here.
4. Contact a CBT therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is an evidence-based, collaborative and goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that is known to be highly effective in helping people overcome social anxiety. Your CBT therapist will help you challenge your Automatic Thoughts, recognize your Thinking Errors, build a Fear and Avoidance Hierarchy and develop exposures. Please feel free to contact us at Pacific CBT for your free phone consultation here. You can also do a search on Psychology Today to find a therapist here.
Written by: Dorinda Woodley, LMFT is a licensed staff psychotherapist at Pacific CBT. She works with people struggling with anxiety and depression.