Social Anxiety: Causes, Treatments, and Other Things You’ve Been Wondering
First things first, if you’re suffering from social anxiety: you’re not alone.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million Americans over the age of 18 are affected by anxiety — roughly 18 percent of the nation’s population. Of those 40 million people, almost 7 million of them suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, with 15 million suffering from social anxiety disorder, 14.8 million suffering from major depressive disorder, and 7.7 million affected by post-traumatic stress disorder.
That’s right, you ready correctly — 15 million! Social anxiety is as widespread as it is frustrating.
What is social anxiety?
According to ADAA, “the defining feature of social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.”
In other words, those of us with social anxiety are constantly worried that the people around us are negatively judging our every move, or even fully rejecting us. In today’s age, with social media putting a spotlight on all our social interactions, this anxiety can become event more present.
What causes social anxiety?
Social anxiety often results from a low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can be caused by bad experiences, or even just by one bad experience. Sometimes it starts out with parents or siblings or school friends saying things that bring us down. Bullying is a huge cause of low self-esteem, even from family members. Believing that the taunts, whether about our weight, intelligence, or general worth, are based in reality can make us feel like we are less than everyone else. Especially if we hear the taunt over and over again.
How is social anxiety treated?
Therapy is a hugely useful tool in treatment of social anxiety. One of the first things I like to do with my clients who are suffering from social anxiety is to ask them to write down the core beliefs they hold about themselves. Throughout my practice what clients have written down have always been very similar. Very often, the beliefs are along the lines of: I’m not good enough, I’m not lovable, I’m a bad person, I’ll never meet someone, I’m awkward, I don’t deserve happiness.
Some people are aware of the beliefs they hold, some aren’t. It’s important to recognize, identify, and then challenge those beliefs. In my practice, we look for hard evidence to refute or support these assertions. Let’s put them on trial and compare the evidence! Is this train of thought accurate or not? Is it a fact or feeling? What would my best friend say about this belief? Would you talk about your friend this way?
What’s on the other side of working through social anxiety with a therapist?
A lot more comfort in your own skin. Being able to be your own best support. Knowing you can accept and love yourself. It takes time, but with the right support it is possible. With a therapist you can learn how to positively affirm yourself and let go of old habits that are holding you back. There’s a lot of evidence that shows that human connection is one of the best tools for healing. When you take a risk and start to open up about your fears and negative self-beliefs, you have so many opportunities to grow as a person and experience new ways to feel about yourself.
Knowing that you are gonna be with you for the rest of your life, you might as well enjoy your own company. Once you’ve got that down, it becomes possible to believe that everyone else in your life does, too.
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I look forward to working with you in achieving your highest self. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) infused with mindfulness, I work with you to help you break free from destructive relationships, anxiety and depression. I enjoy working collaboratively with people of all sexual orientations to increase healthy boundaries, assertiveness and challenge negative self-talk.