Treatment For Social Anxiety Disorder
The first step in treatment is coming to the conclusion that you could benefit from a little help. Interestingly, this is a lot easier said than done.
When you have a broken ankle, the obvious thing to do is to go and see a doctor for treatment. When your thoughts and feelings are preventing you from engaging with other people, though, its pretty easy to make the decision not to get any help.
A lot of the time, negative thoughts and biases convince us that the problems were having are our fault, that no one could help, and that its just something well have to figure out on our own.
If youre thinking about whether you could use help, though, thats a sign that you might benefit from at least speaking with someone.Theres no shame in seeking help, and there are a lot of individuals who talk with counselors and doctors about their mental health without even having a disorder.
Take Slow Deep Breaths
Taking slow, deep breaths can help to calm your overly active nervous system, which is geared up in fight or flight mode. As you focus on mindfulness through your breath, this helps you move out of your head space, where you may be repeating the worries, and connect more with your body. You can sneak into a bathroom, take a break outside, or even discreetly do this at your desk without anyone noticing. As you are breathing, it can also be helpful to add in a coping statement, such as Im with the inhale and OK with the exhale. Ask yourself what coping statement will work for you.
How To Help Social Anxiety
Thank you for reaching out with this question, it can be really hard to put these feelings into words and even harder to reach out for help. There are a few different things that came to my mind when I read your question and I am going to go through a few of them and see if anything makes sense to you. If it does that is great and you may want to take those feelings to a therapist for further help. If they do not hit any home points I would still recommend a therapist but it would be a good starting place because you will have a few things that you know are not the issue and wouldn’t have to start from point zero. With all that being said let’s jump right into things.
I hope some of this helps and please feel free to reach out for a session if you have any further questions or thoughts.
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Increase Social Situations Gradually
People with social anxiety disorder often avoid social situations where they may trigger their feelings of anxiety. Although this reduces anxiety in the short-term, avoidance can make anxiety much worse in the long-term.
If possible â and with the help of a therapist, if necessary â the person can gradually increase their exposure to the situations they fear. This creates space for them to have a positive experience with the situation.
Having positive social experiences can boost a personâs confidence and reduce their anxiety or reassure them that they can overcome it.
How Is It Treated
Treatment of social anxiety disorder includes counselling, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, and sometimes medicine, such as antidepressants. Whether you need medicine depends on how much the problem affects your daily life. If you already feel anxious around other people, it may be hard to ask for help. But treatment for social anxiety disorder works for many people.
Some people with social anxiety disorder turn to alcohol or drugs to help them relax. This can lead to substance use disorder. They may also have depression. It is important to treat these issues too.
Read Also: How To Improve Social Anxiety
What Is Social Phobia
It’s natural to feel self-conscious, nervous, or shy in front of others at times. Most people get through these moments when they need to. But for some, the anxiety that goes with feeling shy or self-conscious can be extreme.
When people feel so self-conscious and anxious that it prevents them from speaking up or socializing most of the time, it’s probably more than shyness. It may be an anxiety condition called social phobia .
You Only Feel Comfortable With Specific People
While it may feel like a sign of introversion to want to hang out only around a specific friend group, this is actually a pretty common symptom of social anxiety.
“Socially anxious people often find themselves connecting with other people much more actively in situations where they have compelling evidence that the group likes and accepts them,” Dr. Morfitt says. If you find it difficult to make connections outside your close group of friends, then you may want to seek the support of a professional.
How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Treated
First, talk to your doctor or health care professional about your symptoms. Your doctor should do an exam and ask you about your health history to make sure that an unrelated physical problem is not causing your symptoms. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or counselor. The first step to effective treatment is to have a diagnosis made, usually by a mental health specialist.
Social anxiety disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy , medication, or both. Speak with your doctor or health care provider about the best treatment for you. If your health care provider cannot provide a referral, visit the NIMH Help for Mental Illnesses web page at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp for resources you may find helpful.
How Is Social Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed
Per the Mayo Clinic, to diagnose social anxiety disorder, your doctor may:
- Conduct a physical exam to help determine whether any medical condition or medication may be triggering your symptoms
- Discuss your symptoms, how frequently they occur, and in what situations
- Ask you whether certain situations make you feel anxious
- Have you fill out self-report questionnaires about symptoms of social anxiety
Your healthcare provider will determine whether you have the criteria for social anxiety disorder as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . These include:
- Persistent, intense fear or anxiety about specific social situations because you fear you may be judged, embarrassed, or humiliated
- Avoiding anxiety-provoking social situations or enduring them with intense fear or anxiety
- Excessive anxiety that’s out of proportion to the situation
- Anxiety or distress that interferes with your daily life
- Fear or anxiety that is not due to a medical condition, medication, or substance abuse
Options For Treating Social Anxiety Disorder
To recognise that someone close to you has social anxiety disorder can sometimes be a relief to know that the symptoms are recognised. Otherwise the person suffering can feel so different from the rest of the socially able people they are sometimes forced to spend time with.
Any treatment approach will depend on the severity of the symptoms, and will individually tailored. If the physical symptoms of anxiety are present, such as hyperarousal and panic attacks especially when they interfere with everyday functioning then its worth visiting the GP to discuss medication options.
From a therapy perspective, CBT is generally recommended for social anxiety disorder. CBT can work with the thoughts that trigger the symptoms, and can work through exposing yourself gradually to what is fearful for you. CBT can also help contain some of the anxious thinking and fears about disapproving others, or being judged by them, that can sit at the root of social anxiety disorder.
If you are concerned about social anxiety, or know someone who could benefit from support, then give us a call on 020 8673 4545. We can put you in touch with one of our CBT therapists who can support you in your recovery. You can also email us on
Dealing With Social Phobia
People with social phobia can learn to manage fear, develop confidence and coping skills, and stop avoiding things that make them anxious. But it’s not always easy. Overcoming social phobia means getting up the courage it takes to go beyond what’s comfortable, little by little.
Here’s who can support and guide people in overcoming social phobia:
- Therapists can help people recognize the physical sensations caused by fightflight and teach them to interpret these sensations more accurately. Therapists can help people create a plan for facing social fears one by one, and help them build the skills and confidence to do it. This includes practicing new behaviors. Sometimes, but not always, medications that reduce anxiety are used as part of the treatment for social phobia.
- Family or friends are especially important for people who are dealing with social phobia. The right support from a few key people can help those with social phobia gather the courage to go outside their comfort zone and try something new. Putdowns, lectures, criticisms, and demands to change don’t help and just make a person feel bad. Having social phobia isn’t a person’s fault and isn’t something anyone chooses. Instead, friends and family can encourage people with social phobia to pick a small goal to aim for, remind them to go for it, and be there when they might feel discouraged. Good friends and family are there to celebrate each small success along the way.
How To Tell If You Actually Have Social Anxiety Disorder
We all get jaded from time to time, longing for alone time and dreading big groups of people. And most of us get nervous before that big presentation at work or the first date with a stranger.
But if you’re someone who experiences intense stress over presentations or speeches, is anxiety-ridden in social settings, has a phobia of interacting with new people, or feels judged by others to the point where it impacts your day to day life you may be suffering from social anxiety disorder.
But it’s not as scary as it sounds, and it doesn’t have to disrupt your life. There are great resources out there and ways to get help so that it doesn’t continue to impact your life negatively, or cause you to avoid social settings. Read on to find out all about social anxiety disorder, if you have it, and how you can treat it.
How Can I Care For Myself With Social Anxiety
The key things you can do to help yourself are to:
- learn about anxiety and how to manage and improve your symptoms of anxiety
- learn a controlled breathing or relaxation technique
- get help if you need it
- join a support group
- stretch yourself a small step at a time in confronting your social anxiety
- stay connected to others
- stay engaged with the rest of your life thats not affected by your anxiety
- avoid alcohol and other drugs
- be physically active
It can be really helpful to try a self-help programme. The following are recommended:
Diagnosing And Managing Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder consists of a marked and persistent fear of social situations where there is the potential for being negatively evaluated by others. Exposure to the feared situations will produce significant anxiety and distress, which will either be endured, or, where possible , avoided, both of which contribute to increasing future anxiety. This level of social anxiety generally interferes with social and occupational functioning, and commonly the person understands the fear is out of proportion to the event.
- Social anxiety disorder generally starts in early adolescence, and time to presentation can be upwards of 15 years, thus the social anxiety can be fairly entrenched, so it is really helpful if you can catch it early and get the person some timely therapeutic assistance.
- There can be frequent use of alcohol and drugs to manage symptoms and such usage may have reached problematic levels. If so, consider referral to Community Alcohol and Drug Services first for treatment of the alcohol and drug-related difficulties before commencing social anxiety treatment.
- Benzodiazepines are not recommended for the treatment of social anxiety.
- Cognitivebehaviour therapy is currently the treatment of choice for social anxiety disorder. This can be delivered by a trained individual therapist, and there are a number of online tools, books, and treatment manuals. The following are recommended:
- a workbook such as Shy no longer
- an online programme like This Way Up.
You Feel Like All Eyes Are On You
Have you ever been anxious that everyone is watching you? And not only watching you, but judging you? For introverts, these are common thoughts since most of us dont like to be the center of attention. A common example is not wanting to dance in front of others due to an overwhelming fear that everyone will be watching you and will see what a terrible dancer you are. Anticipatory anxiety is another example, such as if you know you will need to give a presentation at work and you are overly anxious for days, or even weeks, ahead of time.
What Is It Like Having Social Anxiety Disorder
In school, I was always afraid of being called on, even when I knew the answers. I didnt want people to think I was stupid or boring. My heart would pound and I would feel dizzy and sick. When I got a job, I hated to meet with my boss or talk in a meeting. I couldnt attend my best friends wedding reception because I was afraid of having to meet new people. I tried to calm myself by drinking several glasses of wine before an event and then I started drinking every day to try to face what I had to do.
I finally talked to my doctor because I was tired of feeling this way and I was worried that I would lose my job. I now take medicine and meet with a counselor to talk about ways to cope with my fears. I refuse to use alcohol to escape my fears and Im on my way to feeling better.
Develop Coping Statements To Help You Counter Anxious Thoughts
Its important to identify coping statements you can tell yourself in a compassionate, kind way. These statements can help you tune out any self-critical thoughts and feel more confident, whether youre at an event or about to be. For example, you may tell yourself, Just breathe, Im safe, Im anxious right now, but thats OK Ive done this before and survived, I can do this, and any other ones that may work for you. You can say these in your head or even go recite them privately in the restroom or outside.