- Are you anxious around others?
- Do you avoid social situations?
- Do you get panic-like symptoms when you speak in front of others?
- Does your anxiety prevent you from living a fulfilling life?
When you are around others, you may feel anxiety that shows up as worry, a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, shaking, or stomach upset. Anxiety that is triggered by social situations is referred to as social anxiety. Social anxiety impacts many of us on a daily basis; however, for some individuals, anxiety can be consuming and overwhelming.
You may fear engaging in normal everyday activities, such as working or engaging with friends. When your symptoms escalate and interfere with your daily routine, you may have a Social Anxiety Disorder.
Social Anxiety Treatment
Overcoming social anxiety is possible with psychological therapies. You will learn to identify what is triggering distress and how to better manage your internal response to social situations. Multiple treatment options exist so that you have the best opportunity to make long-lasting changes.
Although psychiatric medications, such as benzodiazepines or certain anti-depressants, can alleviate anxiety symptoms, many people do not want to rely on these long-term and are concerned about side effects. Fortunately, there are many effective non-medication treatments. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), hypnosis, EMDR and biofeedback are proven and efficacious therapies to treat social anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is a multi-modal treatment that involves altering an individual’s cognitions, emotions, and behaviors through techniques. CBT has been shown to significantly improve social anxiety. CBT is a structured therapy in which your psychologist will guide you through activities aimed at reducing social anxiety.
- Cognitive Therapy: Negative thinking is a major contributing factor in anxiety. Learning ways to alter unhelpful thoughts is the primary goal of Cognitive Therapy. Replacing thoughts, such as “Others will judge me” or “I will fail”, with adaptive and rational thoughts can significantly reduce anxiety. In fact, some psychologists believe that it is negative thinking that actually causes anxiety to develop in the first place.
- Exposure Therapy: Therapeutic exposure is aimed at “exposing” you to a specific fear. For example, you will be guided through a hierarchy of social encounters after you’ve learned how to control your anxiety. You may start off with an interaction with a stranger up to giving a speech. Although this idea may seem scary, your psychologist will support you every step of the way. Each exposure completed can feel exhilarating, give you a sense of accomplishment, and instill hope.
- Relaxation Techniques: Learning how to relax and calm yourself down during times of stress is essential. Deep or paced breathing, body scan, progressive muscle relaxation, visual guided meditation are all proven ways to relax. You may find that one of these works better than another. What is important is that you practice your chosen relaxation technique on a regular basis.
Biofeedback is a training method with the goal of teaching you how to control your physiological state in a specific manner. Using computer software and instrumentation, you will learn how to gain better voluntary control over certain bodily functions, such as breathing. Heartrate Variability Training (HRV) is a specific form of biofeedback that involves learning how to alter one’s breath and heart rate to induce a calm and alert state. Engaging in HRV training can have a profound effect on your physiological state and help you manage the physical aspects of anxiety.
Your biofeedback therapist will provide you with education and instructions throughout your biofeedback session. Typically, you are seated in a comfortable chair attached with sensors to the skin. You will be watching a video monitor and engaging in various software programs designed to reach a certain physiological state. Users of biofeedback have reported a reduction in anxiety symptoms even after one session; however, at least multiple sessions are recommended.
Hypnotherapy has been shown to reduce social anxiety and a fear of public speaking. Hypnosis focuses on instilling subconscious suggestions during a trace-like state to induce behavioral change. With the guidance of a hypnotherapist, you will be directed into a very relaxed state. You may feel like you are starting to fall asleep and, for some, they are drawn into a deep trance. Suggestions will be given based on your particular goals. Many times, these are focused on improving your confidence and transforming anxiety into more helpful emotions.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a well-researched therapy to treat trauma. Using bilateral stimulation, EMDR encompasses 8 phases in the protocol. Many people who have social anxiety disorder have experienced traumatic events that contributed to the development of their difficulties socializing with others. EMDR is utilized to reprocess any distressing memories that may be associated with their social anxiety. Performance enhancement can also be used with EMDR to induce confidence and a positive outlook on future social interactions.
Start Social Anxiety Treatment
Whether you engage in CBT, hypnosis, EMDR, and/or biofeedback you are likely to feel less anxious and learn new ways of coping when you encounter social situations. Dr. Mazzei, Health Psychologist and board-certified in biofeedback, incorporates CBT, hypnosis, EMDR, and biofeedback to help individuals suffering from social anxiety.
You can send us a message through the website, text our office, or schedule an initial consultation. A member of our staff will contact you as soon as possible to answer any questions and provide you with information on the next steps. We look forward to hearing from you.