Feeling shy? Or is it more than that?
Not necessarily and they do not have to be overly confident or assertive (or aggressive!) to overcome their hesitation.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, is the most common of anxiety disorders1: 12% of people in the U.S will struggle with it in their lifetime. Onset is usually in childhood and in 95% of cases, it is full-fledged by late adolescence.
If left untreated, it is typically lifelong. It is severely debilitating and affects nearly every aspect of one’s life: it increases the risk of suicide and depression and often leads to marked underachievement in school and career.
Which of our many activities do NOT involve other people? SAD sufferers do not just feel shy in front of strangers: they worry about how their friends perceive them. They make accommodations (speak quietly, avoid eye contact, check for hot spots in their faces) or avoid that party altogether.
Have you noticed that you feel highly self-conscious when meeting people? Or when waiting at the bus stop? You may ‘see yourself’ turning red, or shaking. You prefer Winter to Summer, as it is easier to hide in your clothes then. You apologize for having a cold when fearing your nose has turned red.
There are several forms of therapy that may be helpful. Exposure therapy will help you gain confidence by going into increasingly difficult social situations. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) helps you identify your ‘hottest’ thoughts and images when you are in such a situation and target those directly by using experiments and subtle behavior change.
Sometimes social anxiety is directly linked to a specific event earlier in your life, like being bullied, or being reprimanded by a teacher in front of the whole class. When that is the case, images of how you think you looked then, or of the event itself, may pop up and can be targets of therapy.
The goal of therapy is to help you feel resourced, skilled and comfortable with experimenting in social situations, which you chose or need to attend.
Our team of skilled therapists can help you get there.
- Clark, D.: Update on Social Anxiety Disorder (lecture), Audio Digest Psychology, Vol. 8, issue 6, March 21, 2019.
About the Author:
Kirstine Postma is a UK trained Clinical Psychologist with over 20 years of professional experience. She provides psychological assessment and interventions for a wide variety of difficulties, including post-traumatic stress, anxiety and mood disorders, and certain personality disorders. She offers Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and EMDR, as well as several other evidence-based therapies.