Counseling for Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is related to fears of embarrassment, humiliation, rejection, confrontation, or being unable to control one’s behavior in public. Although many people experience nervousness in different social situations, people with social anxiety disorder cannot function effectively in some, or all, social scenarios.

This disorder may prevent people from doing well in school, finding employment, getting promotions in the workplace, socializing, or going into public places. When social anxiety limits a person’s functioning, it is time for them to seek professional help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is frequently used to address this issue.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT therapies are based on the idea that actions and feelings are prompted by our thoughts. Situations and the behavior of others do not cause us to react in a certain way. It is our thoughts about the situation, behavior of others, and our selves that prompt us to act and feel as we do.

  1. In CBT, people are taught life skills, such as effective communication. When a person knows how to make themselves understood and learns to manage conflict, they are less fearful in social situations. Other skills that might be addressed are listening, being assertive, and the ins and outs of maintaining good relationships.
  2. A major component of CBT is cognitive restructuring. It sounds like the rearranging of brain parts, but actually means identifying and replacing anxiety producing thoughts. The restructuring changes how a person thinks about their self, the world, and others.
  3. Part of cognitive restructuring is learning to identify the ways we distort our thinking. An example of cognitive distortion is assuming you can read other people’s critical and rejecting thoughts about yourself. The reality is, most of us have no idea what other people are thinking about, and it is likely they are not thinking about us at all. Most people think about themselves most of the time.
  4. CBT therapists may help their clients learn to manage symptoms of anxiety by teaching them breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation, or how to visualize.
  5. Some therapists use exposure techniques to help people gradually lose their fear of places, situations, or people. The exposures can be through visualizing the uncomfortable situation or by spending time in anxiety producing scenarios with the supportive presence of a therapist.

Other Options

If social anxiety is mild, group therapy is an excellent way to become comfortable in your own skin and hone your communication and listening skills. A group setting may be too difficult for people with high social anxiety, but it is an excellent follow-up therapy after individual treatment.

Another type of therapy to consider is the emotional freedom technique (EFT). It relieves emotional disturbances by removing blockages in our body’s energy system. This is a short-term therapy that utilizes an easy to learn finger-tapping technique.

Some people use antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or beta-blockers to help manage their anxiety. This is something to discuss with a doctor or psychiatrist.

Further Reading


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