If you think you have social anxiety, you may want to look first at what is social anxiety and take the social anxiety quiz. Here, I want to discuss how to deal with social anxiety and what treatments are available for it.
by Elia Strange
First of all, as it was discussed in my other articles, social anxiety is a very common disorder and it affects around 35 million US citizens (or about 13 percent of global population).
Many famous people have social fears too, which means that if you deal with the public day in day out, this does not guarantee that you will never have any social phobias.
If you took the Social Anxiety Quiz and found that you scored ‘medium’ or ‘high’, then you might want to get diagnosed with your doctor.
Because then you can benefit from the treatments available on the national health service (UK).
There are 3 main types of treatments: behavioural, cognitive-behavioural, and biological.
Behavioural treatment, or behavioural therapy, is aimed at exposing you to the fear that you have.
The therapist may offer a role play where you will need to imagine a fearful situation. Then you will learn how to relax and how to behave in certain situation.
Also, pictures with fearful objects, for example, a picture of a dog from a magazine, may be presented to you, and the therapist will teach you how to reduce your anxiety while you are looking at it. In this manner, you will be working with all your fears, gradually reducing your anxious response to them.
There also might be an opportunity where gradually you would be exposed to the fearful situation or object. For example, if you are afraid of public speaking, you might be asked to volunteer to teach a class that meets every day for a semester where you can practise your newly-learned relaxation techniques.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has become a very common type of therapy for phobias and anxiety disorders these days. CBT is found to be very effective and even more effective than some types of anxiety-reducing medications.
CBT can be done on one-to-one basis or with a small group. During the session the therapist will ask you to describe your social fears.
Then the therapist will continue talking with you, but the conversation would have a certain structure, aim and goal. You might not notice that, but the therapist will use his/her skills to bring you to the ‘core’ of what you fear most and to your understanding of it.
Then, the therapist will teach you how to change the way you think about your phobias and your reactions to them.
Usually, CBT will continue for several weeks, where the therapist will observe your thought-changing process. Some studies show that CBT is much better at preventing relapse into social phobia than the antidepressant treatments.
Biological treatment is what they mean by ‘medication’. Some people are prescribed benzodiazepines – a Valium-type drugs, to reduce their anxiety when, for example, they are taking a flight or have to speak in front of the public.
Another type of medication is antidepressants (or the SSRI’s - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which affect the way your brain responds to the situations that make you anxious.
The downside of these drugs is that although they work (quite effectively!) whilst you are taking them, when you discontinue taking them (as some of them are quite addictive and have certain side effects), the social phobia may return.
In conclusion: many studies show that the majority of people can be cured of phobias with behavioural techniques after only a few hours of treatment, and cognitive-behavioural therapy is effective in the treatment of social phobia. So, if you cannot simply ‘confront your fears’, then behavioural therapy might be the answer.
'I have Social Anxiety' Article Reference:
Davidson, G.C., Neale, J.M. & Kring, A.M. (2004). Abnormal Psychology.
Rathus, S.A. (1999). Psychology in the new millennium. (7th ed.)
Durand, V.M., Barlow, D.H. (2006). Essentials of Abnormal Psychology. (4th ed.)
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