What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is a fear of social situations, usually involving a fear of others judging you. This may come from thinking thoughts like “people will laugh at me”, “I’ll make a fool of myself”, or “people are looking at me and judging”. These thoughts trigger anxiety, which you may feel in your body as an increase in heart rate, sweating, and muscle tension. This can feel very uncomfortable, so people experiencing social anxiety often start to avoid things that trigger the anxiety. This avoidance actually maintains the anxiety and forms a vicious cycle, because it prevents opportunities to have good social experiences and challenge any of the triggering thoughts. Social anxiety and avoiding social situations can have all sorts of other effects, like depression, isolation, paranoia, and problems with coping with stress.
How Seed Psychology can help you
A lot of good research has shown that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most effective treatment for social anxiety. CBT first involves sketching out a description or “formulation” of your unique situation. Everyone is different, so it’s important to understand exactly how your anxiety is playing out. Once we have established this shared understanding, we can start designing activities that will challenge the unhelpful assumptions and beliefs that are maintaining your anxiety. For example, if you don’t look at other people because you fear that they are looking at you in judgement, then you don’t really know if they are looking at you at all.
By observing others in social situations, you can challenge the assumption that others are judging you. We will design some activities for you to try out between sessions, and we can also work on relaxation and other coping strategies to help you through this process. At the end of the process, you’ll feel much more confident and present in social situations.
Written by David Bakker, Psychologist at Seed Psychology