Struggling with Social Anxiety? Cognitive behavioral therapy can help.
Though it has been experienced by many people throughout time, social anxiety disorder was officially introduced and defined in 1980. Now, more than 15 million Americans (7% of the population) suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD). Social anxiety causes apprehension, fear, and stress in many areas of a person’s life. And though she may recognize that her fears are excessive or unreasonable, the person struggling with SAD avoids social situations in which she feels in danger of being judged by others or she is concerned that she may embarrass herself. Social anxiety leaves many people feeling isolated, insecure, and ashamed. It can interfere with academic or career successes or keep her from developing intimate or romantic relationships.
People with social anxiety are viewed by others as being somewhat withdrawn, nervous, and even unfriendly when, in fact, they may want very much to make friends, engage socially, and do the things they want to do. Triggering situations such as introductions to new people, feeling criticized (even in jest), being observed while completing tasks, or certain social gatherings cause significant distress to someone with social anxiety disorder. People with social anxiety disorder know that their fears don’t make sense, but the exhausting feelings, thoughts, and fears are chronic, do not go away on their own, and they can increase over time.
Decades of research concludes that primary treatment for social anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy in which adverse, ongoing thoughts and beliefs about oneself and others are challenged in order to alter unwanted patterns of behaviors, to manage emotions or responses to situation or stimuli, or to manage mood. Statistically, CBT for social anxiety leads to substantial improvement in one’s ability to function and manage mood, and it can greatly influence their quality of life. With therapy, social anxiety is a treatable condition that can change and improve one’s life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is conducted in individual or group sessions, and it is offered at an outpatient office or as part of residential or day treatment. CBT is not difficult to do. Participants learn go employ strategies by repetition – different ways of reacting to triggered thoughts and feelings, reinforcing methods and concepts to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. The premise of CBT states that what we think, what we do, and what we feel all contribute to our perceptions and reactions. Participants learn to identify and cognitively restructure upsetting ideas, thoughts, and images. Skills training and behavioral homework assignments are simple to apply in day-to-day life.
Treatment for social anxiety disorder generally includes assessment, cognitive restructuring (learning to identify thoughts that contribute to anxiety), mindfulness training, and exposure therapy. Other mental health issues often co-occur with social anxiety, so certain anti-depressants can complement cognitive behavioral therapy, however, psychotropic medications alone have not proven affective as a stand-alone treatment for social anxiety.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with social anxiety disorder, our anxiety treatment center can help. CBT for social anxiety is available and affective. We are here to help.