Social anxiety is a continuous and intense fear of being judged negatively by others in various social situations. It typically involves interactions with others in academic, professional, and interpersonal settings. It includes anxiety-provoking thoughts, beliefs, and worries about embarrassment and rejection. Having social anxiety affects all areas of functioning and can range in severity from mildly interfering to debilitating. Social anxiety typically begins in adolescence and the prevalence rates range from 7-13% of the population.
Activities such as ordering in a restaurant, participating in class, doing a presentation, eating in front of people, using a public bathroom, or meeting new people can trigger significant anxiety. Although some people may be able to engage in some social activities with distress, others may find themselves avoiding altogether. Maladaptive thinking and core beliefs remain entrenched without intervention, resulting in further impairment and diminished life satisfaction.
Fears of judgment, rejection, or embarrassment can be overwhelming. The escape and avoidance tendencies in social anxiety further reinforce the symptoms.
CBT interventions have been demonstrated to be effective in addressing symptoms of social anxiety. Learning to think more adaptively, behave effectively and manage one’s distress can help to significantly reduce symptoms of social anxiety and improve functionality as well as quality of life.
A phobia is an unrealistic and persistent fear of an object, situation or activity that is not actually dangerous. Examples can include fears of animals, flying, crowded places, bridges and heights.
Individuals typically recognize that their fears are exaggerated but have difficulty managing the worries and the sensations associated with their fear. In some instances, avoiding certain objects and activities does not cause significant interference and so treatment may not be explored.
When symptoms of specific phobia emerge and interfere in a significant way, CBT therapy can be very effective. Gradual and systematic exposure to the feared stimuli can lead to rapid results. Changing one’s perceptions of risk and danger develops a novel way of looking at situations. Additionally, learning relaxation and meditation strategies can help one cope more effectively in distressing situations.
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