Social Anxiety is a common form of anxiety which involves the fear of one or more social situations, due to anxiety about being negatively evaluated by others. Individuals with Social Anxiety may fear that they will do or say something to embarrass themselves, or that others will notice they are anxious due to visible signs such as blushing, sweating, shaking or having difficulty speaking. Common social situations that elicit anxiety are public speaking, meeting new people, being at parties, speaking up in class or a meeting, talking with people in authority and disagreeing with others.
Individuals with Social Anxiety often avoid the situations which elicit anxiety for them. As such, Social Anxiety can severely impact an individual’s life in various ways. For example, they may have few friends and feel lonely and isolated, they may feel inauthentic in social situations or they may fail to progress and reach their goals in their study or career. It is not uncommon for individuals with Social Anxiety to experience panic attacks if they are unable to avoid situations which elicit their anxiety.
Additionally, Social Anxiety is frequently fuelled by unhelpful thinking (such as “mind reading”), as well as excessive focus on how an individual is being perceived by others during social interactions. It can also lead individuals, after social interactions, to analyse everything that was said and draw negative conclusions which are often inaccurate.
Treatment of Social Anxiety involves working to help individuals identify (and learn strategies to manage) unhelpful thinking such as “mind reading”. We also work to reduce self-focussed attention during interactions, and analysis after interactions. A crucial component of treatment for Social Anxiety involves working with clients to gradually face their feared situations, while using previously learned strategies, in order to learn that the situations are not actually dangerous.