Help For Social Anxiety

Help For Social Anxiety

If you have an exceptionally painful time meeting new people, attending parties, talking in a big group, or going on a date with someone you like, you are not alone. Social fears are one of the three most common mental health difficulties in the United States.

Most people experience some type of social fear, and these fears are natural and harmless when they don’t impair your regular activities. However when social difficulties are causing you extreme levels of stress and pain in everyday situations, it is time to seek alternatives.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) offers one of the most scientifically tested successful approaches to reduce social anxiety to manageable levels. This method teaches you to monitor thoughts and beliefs, and then to challenge them. Take the example of a man who freezes up at the beginning of a public presentation after thinking that people’s faces in the audience are disapproving of him, and that nobody likes him. CBT would help him by reminding him of 3 things: 1) That there is not real evidence that "nobody" likes him (he didn’t ask the audience one by one if they didn’t like him) ; 2) That there may be other possible explanations to why people seem disapproving (they may be tired, or mandated to be there); and 3) That even if it was true that people in general didn’t like his presentation, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Mindful practices can also be very helpful in reducing social fears, and they complement well the CBT work. Meditation allows us to develop a direct way to manage anxiety by working through, instead of working against the anxiety. Another mindful technique, the practice of radical acceptance, liberates us from the pressure to be different and a better person than we are. Instead of having to change ourselves to become an ideal or perfect individual, we strive to get used to and okay with being the way we are. Traits like being shy, and sometimes clumsy or awkward are positively reframed and integrated into our own characteristic charm and uniqueness.

The greatest need for approval from others comes from a personal feeling that you are lacking something, that you are not the way you are supposed to be in order to be loved and accepted. Accepting yourself as you are is a crucial step to feeling comfortable again in feared social situations. After all social fear is no other than the fear of being oneself.

Eva Malia is a licensed mental health counselor and works with clients on social anxiety in her private practice. To schedule a time to work with Ms. Malia, fill out this inquiry form.