Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a psychological condition in which certain social situations become the cause of significant anxiety. Typical examples of these social situations include speaking with an authority figure, with a potential romantic partner, with strangers, or in front of an audience. A fear of public speaking is a common problem for those with this disorder. Many people feel uncomfortable or anxious in certain social or interpersonal situations — this is normal. However, a person with social anxiety disorder will experience certain social situations to be so anxiety-provoking that they either avoid them or endure them with significant distress. This avoidance or distress becomes a significant issue in that person’s life.
Social anxiety treatment
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for social anxiety involves two components: 1) reducing the number of situations that are avoided and 2) changing the anxious thinking that typically occurs in these situations. Exposure is a helpful tool to help patients reduce the number of situations they avoid. Exposure also lowers the anxiety they experience in those situations. Exposure typically involves working with your CBT therapist to find a social situation that is challenging for you, but not overwhelming. You are then encouraged to willingly enter this situation using some of the CBT skills you have learned in treatment, which will help you manage the anxiety in a healthy way. Eventually these social situations become less and less anxiety-provoking.