Social Anxiety Mailing List July 2013

Volume 15 Number 7
July 2013

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The Social Anxiety Mailing List

The Social Anxiety Mailing List, which first began in 1999, comes to you from The Social Anxiety Institute in Phoenix. 
You can reach our home page here.
Upcoming Group Dates, Why is Social Anxiety So Hard to Explain to Others?, Avoidance: Our Worst Enemy
Local CBT Group for Social Anxiety:
Next date: September 21-January 11, 2014.
Details: local group.  Please enroll now for this group - it is almost full.  Fill out an application here.  The all-day Saturday group is enhanced by social and behavioral activities on weeknights and Sundays.  We have a community of people living here who are overcoming social anxiety together.
International Therapy Groups:
The International Group scheduled for July 22nd - August 10th, 2013 is full.
Next date:  April 7 - April 21, 2014.
Details: International Group.  These groups consist of people who are motivated and ready to overcome social anxiety.

This article first Published on this mailing list March 2008...
Why is Social Anxiety So Hard To Explain to Others?
A Possible Reason Why it is So Hard for
Other People to Understand Social Anxiety...
Recently, I was having a first appointment with a young woman from another state who had social anxiety.  She and her mother had driven to Phoenix to see me.  The diagnostic appointment was moving along fine, when the mother looked at me and said,

"I try so hard to understand what my daughter is saying.  But I've only been afraid two times in my life, and one of those times was when my husband held a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me."

I was floored.  The daughter looked at me with raised eyebrows, we exchanged glances, and I thought to myself: "Can this be real?  This woman has only felt fear twice in her life?"

I asked the mother again if that is what she meant.  She thought about it and said "yes".

I was still surprised.

I looked at the daughter and said,  "Well, people with social anxiety feel that level of fear and anxiety almost every day of their lives."   The daughter began shaking her head in agreement.  "Yeah, mom," she said, "didn't you know how afraid I felt to do those things that we're talking about?"

This incident motivated me to start asking people who did not have social anxiety:  "How many times in your life have you felt really fearful?  Really afraid?  We're not talking about butterflies in the stomach or a slight case of nerves.  We're talking about fearing something."

The answers I received to this question from people who did not have social anxiety surprised me greatly.

The average answer people gave me was about seven times.

I said to people,  "Do you mean you have only felt deeply afraid or fearful seven times in your whole life?" and people would look at me funny and say "yes".

This dumbfounded me, because those of us who have social anxiety are fearful almost every day of our lives if we are engaged in life and have to meet new challenges because of school, work, or other social activities.

Perhaps that is the reason other professionals, including psychologists and medical doctors, do not really understand social anxiety disorder. Not only have they never had it, they have never experienced the depth of the emotional, gut-wrenching fear and dread that occurs on a daily basis.  

Not even one time have they felt the DEPTH of fear we feel.
I could tell you horror stories from my own life, when the fear and dread would overtake my body and brain and I could not function.  I was simply too afraid.

This is the hallmark of social anxiety: the heart-pounding fear and dreadful anticipation of social situations and events (things that other people are simply not bothered by).  People without social anxiety can typically tell you a half dozen instances in their lives when they were really fearful.  Those of us with social anxiety could tell them a half dozen instances in our lives on almost a daily basis that bring on fear.

This is one thing that people without social anxiety do not understand.

A second reason is that they cannot "see" the social anxiety or deeply-felt anxiety and fear in us -- we are very good at not wanting other people to see the fear in us.  We could say we are very good "hiders". 

To those of you with social anxiety: More than hope exists for overcoming this traumatic disorder. People can and do overcome social anxiety. We have dozens of people currently at SAI who are in the process of doing this right now.  Don't let anyone tell you that you have to live with social anxiety for the rest of your life.  Don't let anything get in the way of getting better.
UPDATE, July 2013:
I have continued to ask this question, and I continue to receive the same replies.  After the article was published in 2008, I  received several e-mails from people with social anxiety who couldn't seem to believe this is possible.  They made the case that when people say "I'm nervous" that they feel the same feelings of fear and anxiety that people with social anxiety experience.  Other people wrote to report different results.   This article is just a suggestion, and was written on the basis of one face-to-face encounter that really surprised me.

Avoidance: Our Worst Enemy
Overcoming social anxiety always involves a paradox.

As we continue along with actual therapy, we will see that all methods and strategies that help us overcome social anxiety are paradoxes.

Paradoxes are doing the opposite of what our body, brain, and old habits tell us to do.   Therefore, all paradoxes are counter-intuitive.  Again, they are the opposite of what we feel we should be doing.

For example, if we've told ourselves for fifteen years that we can NEVER speak in front of a small group, we will always avoid talking in front of a small group.  In terms of getting over social anxiety, this is obviously not a helpful cognitive belief to have, and notice the result of this belief makes us avoid.

The biggest obstacle to our progress is something we’ve been doing most of our life: avoiding...


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Social Anxiety CBT Groups Around The World

Go to the CBT Groups Operating page.  These groups are proactive and structured.  All of them use the "Overcoming Social Anxiety" audio series as a foundation for overcoming social anxiety.

You may be interested in reading:

Differences Between Social Anxiety and Panic Disorder

Social Anxiety: Why Isn't It Better Known?

An Education for One: My Struggle with Social Anxiety

Taking the Iniative and Being Proactive

You CAN get better and overcome social anxiety.  It happens all the time. You deserve a better life, free from the anxiety and the restrictions that social anxiety places on you, and we are here to help aid you in this process.

Copyright © 2013, The Social Anxiety Institute, Inc.
Thomas A. Richards, Ph.D., Psychologist/Director, SAI
Matthew Whitley, Practice Manager
Justin Bashore, Aaron O'Banion, SAI Staff

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The Social Anxiety Association

The Social Anxiety Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1997 to meet the growing needs of people with social anxiety.  The SAA became inactive for several years due to lack of resources.  We are in the process of re-doing our website, listing all active, structured CBT groups for social anxiety, and renewing all our licenses.  Major changes will be happening by the end of 2013.  We publish new web content -- concerning social anxiety -- almost daily on the site now.

The Social Anxiety Institute is the largest website on the internet about social anxiety disorder (social phobia). Therapy programs have run at the Institute full-time since 1994.  Major new help for overcoming social anxiety is under development and will be introduced in 2013. 

For treatment: Overcoming social anxiety: Step by Step   A structured guide to overcoming social anxiety (a "How to" guide to get over social anxiety).

The Anxiety Network explains and describes five major anxiety disorders.

Guidelines for listing social anxiety groups on this site.  We cannot officially endorse groups, so check them out thoroughly.  We ask that they be groups that are operating, have a definite leader, and are thoroughly structured.  Social anxiety therapy groups are very different than the groups that operate for other mental health conditions.