- Are you afraid of social situations?
- Do you tend to avoid people?
- Do you experience panic attacks?
- Do you fear public speaking?
- Are you scared to seek promotions or follow your dreams?
- Do you have trouble communicating your needs to others?
- Are your avoidance behaviors negatively impacting your personal and work life?
- Do you worry about interacting socially with others?
If you answered yes to these questions, you might struggle with a social anxiety disorder (social phobia). The essential feature of social anxiety is that you fear the judgment of others. You may worry that you will be seen negatively. For example, in a work setting, you become anxious when your boss criticizes your performance or you are scared to attend a party because of how you look to others. Because the anxiety becomes so intense, you likely avoid many social situations.
How is Social Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?
The criteria to be clinically diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder (SAD) include the following:
- A persistent fear or anxiety about social situations because of fear of judgment
- Intense worry that you will be judged or embarrassed.
- You tend to avoid social situations because of fear or anxiety
- Your fear or anxiety is disproportionate to the actual situation
- You struggle with these symptoms for over 6 months
- Your symptoms are not better explained by a substance abuse disorder or medical condition
Approximately 7% of adult Americans have a social anxiety disorder. Females tend to experience social anxiety more than men. Anxiety often begins in adolescence and then intensifies over time into adulthood. Individuals with social anxiety may also struggle with other mental health issues, such as depression, trauma or another anxiety disorder.
Why Do I Have Social Anxiety?
A combination of factors contributes to the development of SAD. Your temperament, childhood upbringing, genetics, and physiology all contribute to the manifestation of symptoms. If one of your close relatives struggles with this issue, you are also at higher risk. Your childhood experiences, including abuse or bullying, can instill negative core beliefs driving social anxiety. Other contributing factors are overly critical parents, inability to express yourself openly, or parents who struggle with mental health issues. Experiencing long-term stress, especially as a child, can also trigger anxiety issues.
Additionally, these events may “wire” your automatic nervous system, making you more prone to anxiety problems. Underlying personal traits, such as behavioral inhibition and fear of evaluation, influence how you interpret events and engage in the world. Behavioral inhibition is a personality style in which you tend to be fearful or shy in new situations. The more contributors that you have will increase your risk of having SAD.
Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Fortunately, many effective treatments exist for SAD. The most common therapies are psychotherapy and medications. Psychotherapy focuses on changing your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to eliminate SAD symptoms. Medications target the physiological symptoms of SAD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most frequently used psychological treatment for SAD. CBT focuses on changing how you think about social anxiety to reduce anxiety symptoms and improve your functioning. With CBT, you work with a psychologist or counselor to change your thinking through cognitive reframing and behaviors through exposure exercises. In addition, treatment often incorporates relaxation techniques, lifestyle modification, assertiveness training, coping skills, and self-esteem therapies.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is another effective treatment for SAD. ACT focuses on increasing psychological flexibility through acceptance, cognitive defusion, mindfulness, self-as-context, and values exploration. Each focuses on shifting how you relate to your internal experience and driving you toward positive behavior modification. As a result, you learn to change how you interact with your thoughts and emotions while focusing on what’s important in your life.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR therapy) is another therapy that resolves any traumatic memories at the root cause of your social anxiety. Performance enhancement protocols are another way to use EMDR to resolve future social situations.
Hypnosis can be a helpful adjunct to therapy. Hypnotherapy targets subconscious change while in a trance-like state. A hypnotherapist provides personalized suggestions for improving your self-esteem and confidence. The goal is to instill these positive beliefs into your mind so that you feel confident and less fearful of social situations.
Start Social Anxiety Disorder Therapy
Dr. Mazzei has helped many individuals overcome their struggle with social anxiety. She will work with you to develop an effective treatment plan so that you receive personalized and evidenced-based therapy. She takes a compassionate and interactive approach to treatment so that you feel supported and encouraged to make positive changes. Dr. Mazzei relies primarily on CBT, ACT, EMDR, and hypnosis, providing the most effective psychological treatments for SAD. To get started with online counseling or in-person sessions, text 480-448-6755 or schedule an initial consultation today.
How Dr. Mazzei Can Help You
If you are suffering from social anxiety disorder, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how Dr. Mazzei can help you, follow these simple steps:
- Text today at (480) 448-6755 or email us for a consultation
- Or, you can book directly online with Dr. Mazzei
- Begin your journey towards a fulfilling and healthier life
Dr. Mazzei offers in-person treatment in Chandler, AZ, and online therapy for Arizona, Illinois, Tennessee, and PSYPACT residents.