Tartakovsky, M. (2013). 6 Ways to Overcome Social Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 9, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/6-ways-to-overcome-social-anxiety/00017631
“For some people social anxiety is pretty pervasive,” said Justin Weeks, Ph.D, an assistant professor of psychology and director of the Center for Evaluation and Treatment of Anxiety at Ohio University. For others, the anxiety arises in specific social situations, he said.
The most common example is anxiety over public speaking. Making small talk, eating in front of others and using public restrooms also can trigger worry and unease for some.
Some people engage in what Weeks called “covert avoidance.” For example, they might go to parties but instead of mingling, they hang back in the kitchen, he said.
Social anxiety is defined as anxiety anticipating a social situation or anxiety during or after that situation, Weeks said. “At the heart of social anxiety is the fear of evaluation.” And it’s not just negative evaluation that people worry about; it’s positive evaluation, too.
Weeks’s research suggests that people perceive negative consequences from a social situation whether they do poorly or well. (Here’s one study.) For instance, people who do well at work might worry about the social repercussions of outshining their coworkers, he said.
In other words, people with social anxiety simply don’t want to stand out. “They want to be as inconspicuous as possible.”
Anxiety about social situations lies on a spectrum. “The consensus among the experts is that shyness and social anxiety disorder are all part of one continuum,” Weeks said. “It’s a question of severity.”
How much does social anxiety interfere with your life?
For instance, you might wish that you were more comfortable when interacting with people, Weeks said. But “you don’t feel like it’s holding you back,” in terms of your personal or professional goals.
“Social anxiety is more severe.” A person might avoid going to college because schools require passing a public speaking course and interacting with new people. They might want a romantic relationship but worry so much about rejection that they avoid potential partners.
Below, Weeks shared his suggestions for overcoming social anxiety.
1. Try a self-help manual.
Self-help manuals are designed to supplement therapy, but they’re also good tools for working on your own, Weeks said. He suggested the Managing Social Anxiety workbook. (PETER’S NOTE: For Teens I highly recommend The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook for Teens: CBT and ACT Skills to Help You Build Social Confidence )
2. Work with a therapist.
If social anxiety is stopping you from doing things you want or need to do, or you haven’t had much success with self-help, seek professional help. Find a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders. You can start your search here.
3. Practice deep breathing every day.
It’s helpful to engage in deep breathing before an anxiety-provoking social situation, Weeks said. But practice this technique every day. This way it becomes second nature, and you don’t hyperfocus on deep breathing and miss an entire conversation, he said. Here’s more on deep breathing.
4. Create an exposure hierarchy.
An exposure hierarchy is a list – akin to a ladder – where you write down situations that cause you anxiety, in order of severity. Then you perform the easiest behavior, and keep moving up the list.
To create your own hierarchy, list 10 anxiety-provoking situations, and rate them on a 100-point scale (zero being no anxiety; 100 being severe anxiety). Your list might start with asking a stranger for directions and end with joining Toastmasters.
This website features a link to various worksheets on coping with social anxiety, and includes “the fear and avoidance hierarchy.” (Look for “managing social anxiety: workbook.”)
5. Create objective goals.
People tend to disqualify the positive when they feel anxious, Weeks said. They might do well, even great, but because of their anxious feelings, they see their performance as abysmal. That’s why therapists encourage clients to create objective behavioral goals, he said.
These are behaviors that anyone in the room would be able to observe. It doesn’t matter how you feel or whether you’re blushing or sweating (which you can’t control anyway) in a social situation.
For instance, if you’re working in a group setting, the objective behavior would be to make three comments, Weeks said.
This also gives you a good barometer for judging your progress. Again, you’re not focusing on whether you felt nervous. Rather, you’re focusing on whether you performed the actual behavior.
Also, avoid focusing on others’ reactions. It doesn’t matter how your colleagues received your idea in the meeting. What matters is that you actually spoke up. It doesn’t matter whether a girl or guy said yes to your dinner invite. What matters is that you actually asked. It doesn’t matter how your child’s teacher reacted when you declined to volunteer for yet another school trip. What matters is that you were assertive and respected your own needs.
As Weeks said, “You did what you wanted to in a situation. We can’t control what another person is going to do.”
6. Keep a rational outlook.
Dispute both bleak thoughts that undermine your performance and fuel your anxiety, and equally unrealistic thoughts that are irrationally positive, Weeks said.
For instance, if you’re giving a speech, you might initially think, “I’m going to bomb.” But if you’ve given speeches before and done well, then this isn’t a rational or realistic perspective. You might say instead, “I’ve given speeches before. I’m prepared, and I’ll give it my best shot.”
If you’re asking someone out, it’s not rational to think, “They’re definitely going to say yes.” But it is rational to consider, “They might,” according to Weeks.
If social anxiety is sabotaging your goals and stopping you from living the life you want, seek help and try the above strategies. Social anxiety is highly treatable, Weeks said. You can get better, and grow in the process.
- Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment | “Social Anxiety Secrets” Teaches People How to Overcome Self-Consciousness and Inhibition – V kool
- Life Experiences with Social Anxiety
- Social Anxiety Disorder Introversion and Shyness
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- Depression: Young People Respond Well To Computer Based Intervention
September 11, 2013 Posted by peterhbrown | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Adolescence, anxiety, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Education, Health Psychology, research, therapy | anxiety, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Health, Mental health, Ohio University, Psych Central, self help, social anxiety, social phobia, workbook | 5 Comments
The study was conducted by Emily S. Orr and her colleagues from the University of Windsor.
To examine this relationship, 103 undergraduate students from a university in Ontario completed an online questionnaire that assessed self-reported shyness, time spent on Facebook, number of Facebook friends, and attitudes towards Facebook.
The results of this questionnaire indicated that shy individuals tended to have fewer Facebook friends and reported spending more time on Facebook. They were also more likely to have a more favorable attitude towards Facebook than those who were less shy.
Orr and her colleagues believe that the relative anonymity provided by Facebook may explain the increased use of and favorable attitude towards Facebook.
Shy individuals may find Facebook appealing because of “the anonymity afforded by online communication, specifically, the removal of many of the verbal and nonverbal cues associated with face-to-face interactions,” as Orr and her colleagues explain.
Those who find face-to-face communication uncomfortable may use Facebook as a way to remain connected to the social world while avoiding physical social interaction.
“These findings suggest that although shy individuals do not have as many contacts on their Facebook profiles, they still regard this tool as an appealing method of communication and spend more time on Facebook than do nonshy individuals.”
Orr, E.S., Sisic, M., Ross, C., Simmering, M.G., Arsenault, J.M. & Orr, R.R. (2009). The influence of shyness on the use of facebook in an undergraduate sample. CyberPsychology and Behavior, Vol 12, No 3: 337-340.
- Is social media unfair on shy people? (thenextweb.com)
- Shyness, I hope you conquer you one day (makaelaherran.wordpress.com)
June 30, 2011 Posted by peterhbrown | anxiety, Bullying, Cognition, depression, Identity, Internet, research, Resilience | Cyberpsychology, facebook, Interpersonal relationship, Online Communities, Shyness, social anxiety, social network, University of Windsor | 3 Comments
From ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2010) — When you think of people suffering from social anxiety, you probably characterize them as shy, inhibitive and submissive. However, new research from psychologists Todd Kashdan and Patrick McKnight at George Mason University suggests that there is a subset of socially anxious people who act out in aggressive, risky ways — and that their behavior patterns are often misunderstood.
In the new study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Kashdan and McKnight found evidence that a subset of adults diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder were prone to behaviors such as violence, substance abuse, unprotected sex and other risk-prone actions. These actions caused positive experiences in the short-term, yet detracted from their quality of life in the longer-term.
“We often miss the underlying problems of people around us. Parents and teachers might think their kid is a bully, acts out and is a behavior problem because they have a conduct disorder or antisocial tendencies,” says Kashdan. “However, sometimes when we dive into the motive for their actions, we will find that they show extreme social anxiety and extreme fears of being judged. If social anxiety was the reason for their behavior, this would suggest an entirely different intervention.”
Kashdan and McKnight suggest that looking at the underlying cause of extreme behavior can help us understand the way people interact within society.
“In the adult world, the same can be said for managers, co-workers, romantic partners and friends. It is easy to misunderstand why people are behaving the way we do and far too often we assume that the aggressive, impulsive behaviors are the problem. What we are finding is that for a large minority of people, social anxiety underlies the problem,” says Kashdan.
The researchers suggest that further studies of this subset group can help psychologists better understand and treat the behaviors. “Recent laboratory experiments suggest that people can be trained to enhance their self-control capacities and thus better inhibit impulsive urges and regulate emotions and attention,” says McKnight. “Essentially, training people to be more self-disciplined — whether in physical workout routines or finances or eating habits — improves willpower when their self-control is tested.”
Credit: George Mason University
Peter Brown BHMS (Hons) MPsychClin MAPS
I’m a Clinical Psychologist and have a private practice and consultancy in Brisbane Australia. I have 24 years experience in child, adult and family clinical psychology. I have a wonderful wife and three kids.
I am co-founder of Christian Wholeness Counselling Services.
I like researching issues of the brain & mind, reading and seeking out new books and resources for myself and my clients. I thought that others might be interested in some of what I have found also, hence this blog…
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