Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as Social Phobia) can be a serious and debilitating condition affecting your ability to interact effectively with the people in your life. At work, with family, friends and in the intimate arena, Social Anxiety can prevent you from expressing yourself, communicating effectively and achieve your goals and full potential. It’s like living with with the handbreak pulled. Social Anxiety can affect your mind as well as you body, transforming social contexts in a situations you dread and wish to avoid. This is an issue that affects more people than you think, but it can stop and therapy is often the most effective answer. Read more to learn about Social Anxiety Disorder and how therapy and CBT can help you treat this debilitating condition and bring confidence and serenity to your social interactions.
It is common for people to feel shy and become anxious in some social situations, such as public speaking and meeting new people. However, social anxiety disorder (SAD), or social phobia which it is commonly called, is the term given to individuals who experience extreme levels of anxiety centred around being judged negatively in social situations. Intense social anxiety may also be experienced even when the person is on their own. For example, they may worry excessively in anticipation to an upcoming social event and spend prolonged periods after a social event analysing how it went. Often the fears that are experienced are known to be irrational, yet they persist. This degree of anxiety can be debilitating and have a significant detrimental impact upon various areas of an individual’s life, for example, school, work as well as establishing and maintaining relationships. This is not something that you need to struggle with on your own, therapy has been shown tobe very effective for tackling social anxiety.
What are the Symptoms and Triggers of Social Anxiety Disorder?
For those with social anxiety, situations that commonly trigger high levels of anxiety include:
Public speaking/giving presentations
Speaking over the telephone, particularly when they feel they are being overheard by others
Eating in public
Shopping, particularly returning an item to a store
Speaking with people of authority
Speaking in a group of people or to someone one to one
Using a public toilet
Thoughts and Feelings
People with social anxiety can often experience the following thoughts and feelings:
Intense fear about others’ eyes are on you
Fear of being judged negatively, such as, a fear that others think you are incompetent, they are scrutinising how you are acting
Fear of being embarrassed or humiliated
Worrying about others noticing that you are embarrassed, such as, they notice you are blushing and sweating
Panic attacks which involve a sharp increase in anxiety in a short space of time
Fear the worst case scenario
Heightened anxiety in anticipation of an upcoming social event
Over-analyse a social situation that has occurred and being self-critical regarding the anxiety you experienced
These troublesome thoughts and feelings can lead to unpleasant physical sensations, such as:
Increase in heart rate
Difficulties concentrating/dizziness leading it do be difficult finding words
Due to experiencing these troublesome thoughts and feelings along with unpleasant physical symptoms, these can lead people to avoid anxiety-provoking social situations altogether. Or they may face the situation and employ ‘safety behaviours’ to help them cope, such as:
Avoid eye contact
Direct attention away from self
Sit close to the exit
Drink excessively/take drugs
Whilst talking with someone do something else at the same time to help make the encounter feel less intense, for example, fiddle with something in your hands
These symptoms can fluctuate. They increase during times of stress and when there are upcoming challenging social events.
What Causes Social Phobia?
It is believed that various factors can play a role in the development of social anxiety, including biological factors (genes, brain chemistry), societal factors (e.g. cultural influences) and environmental factors. Environmental factors that can contribute to the development of social anxiety are:
Parents being overly critical, offering little emotional support, being over-protective and placing great importance upon self-presentation and manners
Abuse, discrimination, bullying
Having experience of being humiliated and embarrassed
Having limited social contact which is needed to learn social skills and become confident in social settings
When Should I Get Help for Social Anxiety?
It is beneficial to seek professional help if you are experiencing social anxiety, you are struggling to cope with it and it is having a significant detrimental impact on your life.
How is Social Anxiety Disorder Treated?
There are treatment options that have been shown to be effective for social anxiety. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a therapy approach that is recommended for social anxiety and it is likely that your therapist will draw upon this therapy model. During CBT for social anxiety, you will be helped to gain a deeper understanding of the causes of your social anxiety and what is maintaining it. You will be introduced to various coping strategies to help you tackle your social anxiety, such as addressing troublesome thinking and behavioural patterns as well as relaxation strategies.
Medication can also be helpful for social anxiety, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). If this is something you wish to consider, we recommend you discuss this option with your GP.
Can Therapy Help with Social Anxiety?
Absolutely. There s good evidence that psychological therapy, and especially Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in reducing symptoms and preventing relapse with Social Anxiety Disorder. Depending always on the severity of the issue, around 6-10 sessions can already be enough to bring relief from Social Phobia.
What are the Benefits of Therapy for Social Phobia?
The elective Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder is therapy. Therapy for social anxiety has been shown to lead to the following improvements:
Reduced anxiety levels
Reduced levels of depression
Better quality of life
Calmer and more relaxed
How Long Does the Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder Last?
Some people can make significant improvements in therapy for social anxiety in around six sessions. This is usually the case if the social anxiety is relatively mild in terms of severity. However, for some people, more sessions may be needed to allow more time to learn more tools to tackle this condition and ensure it does not return in the future, to prevent relapse. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that up to around 14-16 sessions are usually required for therapy to be highly effective to recover from social anxiety.
Social Anxiety Treatment can halp bring back confidence and balance into your social exchanges.
Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment, Therapy & CBT in Central London & Online
If you are looking for therapy for Social Anxiety in London or Online, at Therapy Central we can help you learn the strategies you need to start managing your symptoms and break the vicious cycles which maintain this condition. As a result, you’ll be able to make the crucial changes to bring balance and fulfilment back into your life. No one should face social anxiety alone.
Start Overcoming Social Anxiety in London & Online today
Our comfortable and confidential therapy rooms are conveniently located 3 min walk from Oxford Circus station, in Central London (see map below). However, therapy for Social Anxiety can be also carried out online. Change starts with talking!
Further Helpful Resources For Managing Social Anxiety:
 Goldin, P. R., Ziv, M., Jazaieri, H., Hahn, K., Heimberg, R., & Gross, J. J. (2013). Impact of cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder on the neural dynamics of cognitive reappraisal of negative self-beliefs: randomized clinical trial. JAMA psychiatry, 70(10), 1048-1056.