Psychotherapy: Treating Social Anxiety Disorder
Before any treatment for social anxiety disorder can begin, it is recommended that the person with the disorder seek professional medical assistance. A doctor will normally perform a diagnostic evaluation to determine whether or not the symptoms are due to anxiety disorder, which specific anxiety disorder and identify any coexisting conditions that may also be present.
One type of treatment method often used successfully to help people learn to cope with social phobia is called psychotherapy. This type of therapy is normally practiced by psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and professional counselors.
The most well known form of psychotherapy is called CBT, or cognitive behavior therapy. The CBT treatment technique is broken down into two components:
- Cognitive Component - The cognitive component can help individuals with social phobia to change thinking patterns that may be keeping them from overcoming their fears and anxieties.
- Behavioral Component - The behavioral component is designed to help people change their reactions and behaviors during anxiety or stress provoking situations.
For people with social phobia, the cognitive component of CBT can teach one how to overcome the belief that others are continually watching and judging him or her. This is done by identifying specific thoughts, often called automatic thoughts, that may be causing the irrational fears or perceptions.
In response to automatic thoughts, the person with social anxiety will often respond behaviorally. Examples of behavioral responses may include detaching oneself from a social situation, avoiding work because of the fear of being judged by peers or supervisors, or, in severe cases, the inability to leave one's house because of social anxiety related fears. In some cases, social anxiety may also be accompanied by panic attacks.
The behavioral component of Cognitive Behavior Therapy address these types of actions (or inactions) by utilizing an element called exposure. As an example, for people with social phobia, exposure therapy may ask the patient to spend time in a feared social situation without giving in to the temptation to flee and hide.
Another successfully used technique for sufferers of social anxiety may ask that the individual deliberately make what appears to be a blunder(s) in public and observe how other people in the area react. The goal of this specific technique is to quell the irrational fears of the individual with social anxiety, showing them in real life environments that people who see the social blunder occur will not react or judge the individual with harshness.
Over time, exposure therapy may help to present rational, positive evidence that counters the irrational thoughts and fears going through the individual's mind.
Cognitive behavior therapy is a process that may take from two (2) to twelve (12) weeks to complete. Active participation by the individual anxiety sufferer is required for this type of therapy to be successful. Additionally, the techniques in CBT can be used throughout the rest of your life to help one cope with a variety of common emotional disturbances like anxiety, stress, depressed mood and anger.