Are You Often Worried About Others Judging You?
You’re supposed to attend a charity gala this weekend, and your stomach is in knots. What if your close friend bails? What if you have no one to talk to? What if you can’t think of anything interesting to say? What if everyone can tell you’re anxious? You consider canceling your RSVP.
Perhaps you fear social or performance situations in general, or you might have specific situational triggers, such as public speaking, appearing in front of crowds, meeting new people, socializing at parties, interacting with higher-ups at work, asking for help or favors, etc. Underlying most of this is a fear of being judged or negatively evaluated and a concern that your anxiety will be obvious to others.
Social Anxiety Is More Common Than You Think
Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, involves a persistent fear in social or performance situations that you might humiliate or embarrass yourself. Those who struggle with social anxiety disorder are worried about others evaluating them, judging them, or noticing their anxiety. Social anxiety isn’t just shyness. There are many people who are shy who don’t have their lives as negatively impacted as those with social anxiety.
If you think that social anxiety isn’t that common, think again. Approximately 12% of Americans experience social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Social anxiety often emerges during our teenage years, a time fraught with concerns about how we’re coming off to others. It can persist into adult and impact our work, our relationships, and our self-esteem.
But help is available. You don’t have to continue to live in fear of what other people are thinking about you. You don’t have to continue to avoid events, public speaking, or just being out in the world. You can conquer your fears and live your life more fully again.
What to Expect
When we first meet, we’ll conduct a thorough evaluation to understand how your social anxiety manifests and what situations seem to trigger it most. We’ll also gather some background information about your history, other treatments you’ve tried, and what your goals are for therapy at this point. We’ll be able to establish some treatment recommendations at this time.
How Therapy Can Help Your Social Anxiety
Social anxiety can cause significant distress and avoidance, but counseling can help reduce your symptoms and help you live your life more fully and effectively. Many of the evidence-based methods for addressing social anxiety involve exposure – to other people in various situations.
Exposure exercises in social anxiety therapy encourage us to engage in exactly what we fear. So, if you fear public speaking, you might sign up for Toastmasters, where you can practice just this. With exposure, we see acclimation and reduced anxiety over time. If you fear unstructured social situations, social anxiety therapy might set up a series of graded, exposure exercises, perhaps starting with spending some time at a coffee shop, then saying hello to someone at the coffee shop, then striking up a conversation with a stranger, and then proceeding to more challenging exposures, such as attending parties and school dances.
You tackle your fears one step at a time.
In addition to exposure therapy, some of the other approaches that we use to treat social anxiety disorder include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you challenge some of the thoughts that lead to the experience of social anxiety (e.g., “I have to be interesting at all times” or “If they see I’m anxious, they’ll think less of me”) and create exposure exercises to help you face your fears.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which teaches you skills that can help you cope with some of the symptoms of social anxiety.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which helps you to notice the impact of symptoms of social anxiety, while prioritizing behavior aligned with your values.
- Group therapy, which offers in-session exposures to speaking up and sharing in front of others.
We typically recommend our DBT skills groups to folks struggling with social anxiety because you’ll have the opportunity to learn skills while engaged in live exposures to other people each week, and you’ll have the benefit of our in-the-moment support as you manage some of these interactions. Because of the exposure built into the treatment, you might see quicker, more sustainable gains with group.
But You Might Still Have Questions About Starting Therapy To Address Your Social Anxiety. . .
I’m too embarrassed to talk about this concern and even worry about a therapist judging me.
At Gatewell Therapy Center, we’ve worked with many clients just like you who’ve had trouble in a wide range of social situations. We are trauma-informed and approach each client with care and compassion. There’s no space for judgment in our work.
This idea of exposures sounds too scary. I’m not sure I’m up for that.
You’ll determine the course and pacing of your therapy. We certainly understand why you wouldn’t want to jump into difficult interventions right away. Exposures can start really gradually, and you can choose what you decide to do. Maybe it’s just going to a store or a park to start. We’ll work with you to determine some exposures that feel challenging but doable for you. And we think it’s especially helpful for you to join one of our groups, where we’re there to offer support and coaching in the moment.
Get Back Out In The World With Social Anxiety Therapy
Social anxiety can rob us of many important life experiences, but you don’t have to continue to suffer alone. Social anxiety therapy at Gatewell Therapy Center can help you conquer your fears and increase your confidence in your interactions. The more you interact with others, the easier it becomes. Learn how to approach social situations more skillfully and confidently at Gatewell. Contact us to schedule your next appointment.