At Safe Place Therapy, we specialize in helping people with a range of social anxiety issues.
If you suffer from social anxiety the great news is that you are already reading this. That means you have taken a really positive step in considering getting help.
So, please read on to find out more about practical and effective next steps you can take.
Social Anxiety – What is it exactly?
There is a difference between normal shyness and mild social anxiety and what psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists call ‘Social Anxiety Disorder’.
If you ask yourself the question “I’m nervous seeing people, is that social anxiety?”, not necessarily. There’s also a big difference between introversion and social anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, is far more severe than normal shyness and can be a chronic condition with one or more of the symptoms below.
These are usually associated with a deep feeling of fear about normal everyday activities, such as going shopping, going to work, meeting strangers, starting conversations, speaking on the phone, etc.
Here are some typical symptoms:
- Having panic attacks
- Avoiding situations where you might meet strangers
- Feeling uncomfortable with being watched doing a task
- Finding eye contact difficult
- Low self-esteem
- Fear of criticism
There can also be physical symptoms like butterflies in the stomach, feeling sick, sweating for no reason, a racing heart or trembling .
What are the causes of Social Anxiety?
Sometimes Social Anxiety Disorder occurs in conjunction with some other condition, especially depression.
Like most mental wellbeing conditions, conditions, we don’t know exactly what causes social anxiety disorder and phobias.
They tend to start during the teenage years (although children can develop them too) and gradually die away, although some people if left untreated, might have the condition in some form for their whole lives.
It’s thought to be a combination of genetic predisposition, biology and early life experiences. Some common contributory factors can include:
- Growing up in a household where a caregiver is already phobic
- Early life trauma or humiliation
- Insecure attachments with your mother when you are an infant
- Either overprotective or hypercritical parents or caregivers
As well as these factors, some forms of substance abuse can cause changings to the brain that may influence the condition. These include alcohol or benzodiazepines.
What are the effective treatments for Social Anxiety Disorders?
Social Anxiety Disorders can be very distressing and have a big impact on your ability to live life and affect those around you. Then the good news is that there are effective ways to help you deal with it.
Techniques used in our therapy include discretization, separating out feelings and behaviors, so we can focus on where anxiety comes from.
You don’t need to worry about therapy sessions, we are very experienced in this area and they are relaxing, calm and stress – free.
The most used and most effective options are:
CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) with a qualified therapist or counsellor.
CBT therapy works by helping you identify negative, unhelpful or distorted thought patterns and behaviors, and change them.
The process often involves first identifying the “Old Me”, where you separate out thoughts and behaviors that you want to keep and maybe enhance, form those you want to reduce or eliminate.
From that point you then build a ‘new me’, taking the best of the past but adding new patterns of thinking and behaving. Research into CBT shows that – when done well, with a skilled counsellor – it is one of the most effective therapeutic intervention types.
This involves working through CBT-based content, supplied either as a print book or online course with regular support from a counsellor or therapist. This can help some people up to a point but is not as thorough.
Usually, a type of anti-depression prescription called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Since antidepressants only treat symptoms rather than tackling root causes, they tend to be less effective on their own than when combined with CBT.
CBT is generally considered by researchers and practitioners to be one of the best treatments, but other kinds of treatments may help if CBT does not work for you.
What about Self Help?
Although for some people self-help is better than doing nothing, self-help probably will not cure your social anxiety disorder, as in order to really fix a problem, you first must find out exactly what the problem is.
It is very difficult to diagnose yourself and you need an expert external specialist to help.
Self-help works well alongside professional therapy and you also might find it a useful first step to take before trying other treatments delivered by expert professionals. The following self-help tips may be useful.
Before visiting a trained counsellor, try to understand more about exactly what your anxiety is like. For example, think about what is going through your mind when anxiety strikes you.
Also think about how you behave in certain social situations that trigger anxiety symptoms, to help you get a clearer idea of the exact problems you want help to tackle
Ask yourself honestly if some of your thinking and beliefs are rational. Irrational fears can also be called ‘cognitive distortions’. You may see problems where no problem exists.
You might also ‘catastrophize’ situations that really are quite minor. Then, try to replace your irrational unrealistic beliefs and thinking with more rational ones.
Don’t think or dwell too much about how others might see you. Try to pay more attention to other people instead and remember that your anxiety symptoms might seem to sever to you but maybe are just not as obvious to other people as you might think
Fresh air, good exercise and a healthy diet do make a difference to some people. None of these is a ‘cure’ by themselves but at least you are helping your body manage the flood of chemicals the body gets exposed to in times of fear and anxiety.
What’s even better is if you can start to do group activities that you’d normally avoid. This – ironically – can be a cause of anxiety at first, so it’s best to take baby steps at first. Start with setting yourself small achievable targets and then gradually work towards more feared activities.
Safe Place Therapy is here to help. Don’t be put off contacting us today if you think you have social anxiety. If you don’t want to call, you can contact us via Facebook messenger, email or by text. It will be your first step towards a positive new life.