Treating social anxiety disorder

No one is born with social anxiety disorder, it is a learned behavior that stems from traumatic experiences. There exists no easy solution for eliminating this form of anxiety, but cognitive behavioural therapy has proved to be an effective treatment.

Social anxiety disorder is a condition that in the majority of cases is triggered by a response to the environment. No-one is actually born with social anxiety. It is true that you may be born with a propensity to be anxious, but there is no gene that codes to social anxiety.

If you show anxiety in social situations, this behaviour has been learnt by the brain over a period of time, as it relies on its memory of certain situations to defend itself against spiritual or emotional distress. For instance if a group situation caused trauma in your earlier life, as soon as that scenario became apparent again, your body warns you by triggering a feeling of anxiety. Earlier memories are unfortunately lost to the subconscious. The more you behave in a set manner the more feelings are cemented with a set action, so forming a set pathway in the brain.

Medications are sometimes prescribed for helping people with social phobia (such as serotonin and various anti-depressants) but psychotherapy appears to be the most commonly successful treatment.

The use of CBT as a therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy has shown marked results in the treatment of social anxiety disorder. One technique used within CBT is Exposure therapy. This technique involves a person learning to understand the irrational basis for their fears (cognitive restructuring), teaching simple relaxation skills to practice while in the moment, and gradually being “exposed” to the situation which causes the anxiety. The exposure is done first in the safety of the psychotherapy office, imagining the scenario and walking through it with the therapist. As the patient’s confidence grows, he or she will begin to apply the skills they’ve learned in the therapy session to outside world events and environments.

Is our society becoming more socially phobic?

Many social commentators have asked whether as a society we are becoming more socially phobic. This is based on the idea that with technological advances in the hyper world of the internet, social media and instant messaging, we are spending more time sending out micro notes electronically, than we are physically being with other people. The danger is that if we all become dependant upon technological media to interact, we will eventually lose the skills of interacting socially. This in turn would lead to a social phobia or social anxiety disorder in a classic vicious circle.

Life Works provides first rate support and guidance in the treatment of anxiety. To discuss how we can help you, please call 0808 149 7660 or click here to complete a short enquiry form.


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