What is Social Anxiety?
Do you experience difficulty in social situations?
Do you consider yourself shy and introverted?
Are you afraid of getting humiliated, rejected, or embarrassed in social settings?
Do you worry about interaction with people?
Do you experience loneliness, anger or frustration as a result of your difficulty in social situations?
Do you tend to avoid socializing with people?
If this sounds like you, you may be suffering from Social Anxiety. Social anxiety can cause extreme discomfort in social situations and can interfere with one’s ability to make friends, maintain relationships, get to know people at work or one’s personal life.
The good news is, we can help. New York Behavioral Health professionals use evidence-based practices. Since we use scientifically supported treatments for social anxiety, there is good reason to believe your problems can begin to improve very soon.
How Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) Can Help with Social Anxiety
CBT along with Exposure Therapy has been scientifically proven to be effective in the treatment of social anxiety. Warm, caring, professionals can offer CBT therapy in a comfortable setting at New York Behavioral Health, which is conveniently located on the corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. Our compassionate staff have been extensively trained in scientifically supported techniques to efficiently reduce your suffering. We also work with experienced and knowledgeable psychiatrists if we determine that medication could be helpful. We know it is not easy to get started, but we are here to help you get on the path to a better life. For information about CBT therapy, please email or call New York Behavioral Health, and a staff member will be there to answer your questions. Your privacy and comfort are a priority, and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your problems and their treatment.
What Causes Social Anxiety
The specific causes of social anxiety are not known, but it is likely the combination of genes, which contribute to a tendency to be anxious, and negative experiences like rejection.
Negative past experiences like being bullied, rejected by peers or potential romantic partners, or teasing could lead to or exacerbate social anxiety. But there are plenty of people who have social anxiety that may not have had any of these experiences directly.
They may have seen it happen to others, have seen socially anxious behaviors in their parents, or through another way incorporated beliefs like, "If I say the wrong thing, I'll be rejected, and humiliated in front of everyone." These kinds of beliefs can perpetuate intense levels of social anxiety that can prevent people from "putting themselves out there" and engaging in social situations. Avoiding social situations completely or attending, but not initiating conversations is a very common problem. This maintains the problematic thinking, leads to low self-esteem, and often social isolation and loneliness.
If you are interested in more technical details about social anxiety, please continue to read below, but at any point feel free to call us if we can be of help.
Social Anxiety in New York City
Social anxiety can be a bigger liability when living or working in a big metropolis like New York City. To advance your career in a city that teems with professionals requres you to meet new people, start and join conversations, and be assertive with others. Some NYC careers even require you to speak in public.
New York City, especially Manhattan, is also a place to meet people socially outside of the office. You have to be skillful in interacting with groups at parties and other social gatherings.
Having social anxiety may even prevent you from finding love and romantic opportunities that the city could offer.
New York has countless organizations, meet up groups, clubs, etc. These can be wonderful places to develop new friendships, meet potential dates (or even spouses), or network with new potential business partners. But social anxiety that leads to avoiding joining or attending these groups can cut you out of all that NYC can offer. So your friendship, romantic, and career lives may all suffer as a result.
How to Overcome Social Anxiety
Social Anxiety Disorder involves people feeling intense anxiety in social situations where they think they might be judged and become embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated.
Anxious Behaviors, Feelings, and Thoughts
People with Social Anxiety Disorder also frequently avoid going to these situations in the first place, or leave (escape) from them when their anxiety or other emotions become too much to bear. Finally there are beliefs that go with this kind of anxiety, like, “There is a good chance if I try to talk to that person, I won’t say the right thing and she will be judging me in her head, even if she doesn’t say so, that would be so uncomfortable.” So there are the emotions, the behaviors of avoidance and escape, and finally the cognitions, the thoughts and beliefs that all play a role in social anxiety.
To overcome social anxiety, you want to address all three of these. Fortunately, as you target one, the others typically fall in line too. Here is an example of what someone may do, feel, and think before they challenge and try to address social anxiety.
I believe social interactions are really dangerous (thought). One wrong move could lead to a humiliating incident where I would never feel comfortable being around those people again (thought). I feel anxious just thinking about saying yes to the invitation to their party. (feeling) Ok, I’m going to reply (behavior) I can’t make it to their RSVP. Ah, I already feel relieved (feeling).
This is a simple example of how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors all interact to maintain social anxiety. This example takes place without even having to be around people. But the same things could occur if instead of replying to an RSVP (avoidance behavior), you simply avoided going to a party or bar, or chose not to walk up to someone and talk to them. These are all avoidance behaviors. Here is how they all work together.
If you have social anxiety disorder you likely have beliefs that it is very likely you will embarrass yourself during social interactions. When you combine that belief with the thought of going to a party, or actually attending a party, you frequently become really anxious. Being really anxious doesn’t feel good, and one effective way to turn it off is to remove the possibility of being social, so you decide not to go to the party or walk up and talk to someone. Once you do that, what happens? Usually you feel a sense of relief, i.e., your anxiety level drops.
What do you learn from avoiding that party or choosing not to talk to someone? You learn it is a great way to turn down your anxiety. Unfortunately, you also miss the opportunity to challenge the thought that it is really likely that you’ll mess it up and be humiliated. So you keep that belief intact. By keeping that thought intact you perpetuate the social anxiety, and the only tool you have to decrease your anxiety now is to keep avoiding those situations.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) addresses this cycle in two major ways. One technique would be to evaluate how realistic that thought, or other thoughts like, “It would be awful if I stuttered or couldn’t think of what to say, I couldn’t stand being embarrassed like that, I am so worthless for not being able to talk to other people like a normal human being,” really are. You begin to recognize that while there may be some truth to some of this thinking, much of it is an exaggeration or is not based on the facts. By changing these beliefs it becomes easier to approach social situations because the stakes aren’t as high and the anxiety is lower.
The other technique works hand in hand with changing the beliefs and lowering the anxiety. Once that has occurred you again and again practice engaging in social situations. You can start very small, e.g., ordering something at an ice cream parlor, talking to a shop clerk casually about things other than what you are buying, etc. As you get more and more examples of social interactions (more intense ones as well) you have had, you will have evidence to see if it is really accurate that 95% of these will end badly, or that you really can’t stand how you feel. By behaving against the tendency to avoid the anxiety, you in time both lower the anxiety, and diminish how much you believe those irrational thoughts. When working with a cognitive behavioral therapist, this can be done in a very precise methodical way, but it is done over time and with compassion, so that it is very manageable. The last thing you need if you are anxious is to be pushed to be more anxious when you aren’t prepared or ready. Good therapists are well aware of this and work collaboratively to ensure you are on board with the next step you are about to take.
Social Anxiety Treatment
For information about CBT therapy, please email or call New York Behavioral Health, and a staff member will be there to answer your questions. Your privacy and comfort are a priority, and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your problems and their treatment.