Social Anxiety News

How to Change Your Thoughts and Beliefs

When we have learned to catch and stop our automatic negative thinking (ANTs) then we must gently, without pressure, learn to replace our old thoughts and beliefs with new rational beliefs.  We call this process "Turning the Tables on the ANTs."  

Successful Social Anxiety Groups

Successful social anxiety therapy groups follow the guidelines established by years of consistent research about social anxiety.  While individual appointments can help a person make progress with cognitive therapy, a group of people is needed to help people make behavioral progress.

Successful social anxiety therapy groups:

1.  Are composed ONLY of people with a diagnosable case of social anxiety disorder.

2.  Run by an experienced group leader who understands how to move people ahead in the appropriate manner.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Social Anxiety Makes Physical Changes in the Brain

By use of brain imaging scans, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for social anxiety disorder has been shown to make physiological changes in the brain.

New Test for Social Anxiety Disorder (social phobia)

The Social Anxiety Institute has published a survey that you fill out about yourself.  It helps you determine whether you have social anxiety disorder (social phobia) or not, and a way of gauging how much social anxiety is experienced.   The quiz is an unofficial guide to social anxiety symptoms, but will help people determine if they have a diagnosable case of social anxiety, as deined in the DSM-5. 

You can find the Social Anxiety Test here.

How to Change our Thinking and Thinking Habits

When just starting therapy for social anxiety, it's impossible to go from our normal way of thinking to positive thinking right away -- it's too information for the brain to take in all at once, and so your brain won't accept or believe it.  Instead, we have to slowly ignore our old thinking habits, and change our negative thinking in a step-by-step way.

Say No to Setbacks

When in the process of overcoming social anxiety, setbacks can and will happen.  It can seem like we get "stuck" or have a setback frequently, and that can become discouraging for people.  Although this is part of the process of beating social anxiety, we can also learn not to have so many and such deep setbacks.  You do have some control over them.  In fact, you have many more options -- to get out of a setback -- than you may realize.  It's just that no one has ever told you about these ways yet. 

I Wasted Years of My Life Beating Myself Up

In Dr. Richards' audio series, "Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step" one of the therapy handouts focuses on how patients with social anxiety beat themselves up over situations that they thought could have gone better.  

Thoughts like "Did I make a fool of myself? "  "Did I look silly?"   "Did I make too many hand gestures?"  "Did I say the wrong thing?"  

Absolute Statements? Absolutely Not!

Our brains take in whatever we feed them.  So, we need to stay away from "absolutes": never, can't, always, hate, wouldn't, couldn’t.  If you say "I can never make any progress" your brain hears this and will eventually believe it.  If you say "I always make a fool of myself" your brain hears that and eventually believes it, searching out ways to make your words come true.  As those words come true, you fall further down into the anxiety trap. 

Improving Our Self-Talk

While someone else may have started our automatic negative thinking, it is now a part of us and we are the only ones who can do anything about it.  Now that these belief systems are part of our daily thinking process, do you realize that you are recycling irrational things about yourself over and over and over again?  Then, are you surprised when we "believe" these things even more strongly?  Our self-talk needs to change.  You can't get better if you keep putting yourself down and telling yourself you can't do things.

Chip Away Anxiety

Chipping away at anxiety every day -- working against it gently and slowly -- is the course of action that leads to permanent change.  We should chip away and dent social anxiety from every side and from every perspective -- in all situations.  If we do this little by little, by choosing the easiest situations as we move forward, and as we don't give up -- social anxiety shrinks and shrinks and shrinks.  Attempting to take too big of a step, or flooding yourself, does not work and will only lead to setbacks. 

Catching Irrational Thoughts

Notice irrational thoughts and beliefs, label them for being liars, and gently dismiss them. Find something proactive to do and you are staying on track for overcoming social anxiety. Noticing when you are having these irrational beliefs during the day may be the hardest part of this, so keep reading over "The ANTs Handout" every day in slow talk so that your brain understands this more and more deeply: The more our ANTs thoughts are in control, we are doomed to live with social anxiety.

A Starting Point

The journey toward overcoming social anxiety must start at the beginning -- at square one.  Once you get started properly, anxiety gets easier and easier to handle.  In our therapy groups, we break things up into smaller pieces so that we can learn things faster (and do them sooner).  It is surprising when you've felt anxious all your life about something, that you can learn to calm yourself down and do something like introduce yourself with only a little anxiety.  Thankfully, the fact is that you can learn how to do it in a short period of time, if done in the right way.

Distract Yourself from Negative Thoughts

Here are two distractions that will keep you away from the most difficult negative ANTs thinking:  physical exercise and singing.  Both of these distractions HAVE to work because they physiologically affect the brain and STOP the automatic negative thoughts temporarily.  You may need to get away from the ANTs for 30 minutes (by use of any distraction that works) so it has time to work and to quiet down your anxious thoughts and feelings.

Be Fair, Don't Compare

Please remember that comparisons always lead us in the wrong direction.  We pick out someone we think is better than us...and then come to the realization that we're not as good as them.  That, of course, is not rational. STOP all comparisons.  YOU are you.  You can get better.  You can change.  You can make different decisions. You can learn to be happier.  All of these positive qualities are already inside you ... in overcoming social anxiety, we just need to bring them out one by one, naturally and gently, and allow them to be used practically in real-life situations.

Therapy Reminders

Overcoming social anxiety involves putting the cognitive strategies into place (behaviorally) in your life at work, school, home, social situations, etc.  One tip to help you remember to USE the strategies instead of letting anxiety take control, is (for example) writing "ST" -- for slow talk -- on anything you will see many times throughout the day. You can write it on notebooks, your desk drawer, the mirror in the bathroom, an index card for your pocket, your purse, or in the car.  Get creative with this.