A definition of social anxiety may be ‘a persistent fear of social or performance situations, in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny, by unfamiliar people. As a result, the person fears that their anxiety symptoms will be obvious to all, or that they will act in a way that will be humiliating and embarrassing (DSM-5, 2010).
Current CBT strategies/techniques for dealing with social anxiety disorder, include Cognitive restructuring, which aims to change an individual’s perceptions, by helping them firstly, to identify their automatic thoughts, and their thinking errors within those thoughts, and through challenging, be able to develop more rational responses. Another popular technique, is to help an individual examine the underlying assumptions they may have, which give rise to their automatic thoughts, and to help them identify their core beliefs which are at the root of their underlying assumptions, as these beliefs govern the ways in which a person views themselves and their world around them. Following Cognitive restructuring, behavioural experiments/exposure are beneficial for those struggling with social anxiety, as the client can choose to enter into a situation which they find only a little uncomfortable (based on their own fear and avoidance hierarchy), and gradually build up to entering situations which they find immensely challenging. The aim of this technique is for self-confidence to be built up, at a pace which is manageable to the client.
Another technique which I have used many times with clients who are struggling with social anxiety disorder, is Mindfulness. This practice encourages clients to maintain a moment by moment awareness of their feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations in the situation that they find themselves in, as opposed to fearfully imagining what may happen in the future, or reliving what happened in a similar situation, in the past. I have experienced that when clients identify, and gain control over their upsetting feelings and thoughts, they are more able to place their attention onto their current environment and are able to do whatever is required of them with ease, while comfortably enjoying communication with those around them.
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