CBT for Social Anxiety
Social Anxiety Therapy in Canary Wharf
- Does the thought of making small talk make you nervous?
- Do you feel anxious when giving a presentation?
- Do you worry about being judged negatively by others?
- Do you feel self-conscious when interacting with others?
- Do you dread speaking with authority figures (i.e., your boss, your boss’s boss)?
Many people with social anxiety are able to function from day to day, but they do so either through avoidance, or by enduring severe anxiety symptoms.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder characterized by the fear of negative evaluation. This fear is normally present in performance situations, where you may worry about coming across as incompetent or making some social mistake.
Performance situations can be big or small, and can include:
- Meeting new people
- Making small talk
- Public speaking
- Work presentations
- Job interviews
- Talking to authority figures
- Eating or drinking in public
- Being the center of attention
What are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety?
The signs and symptoms of social anxiety fall into four main categories:
- Physical symptoms
Each of these areas has a knock-on effect on the other areas. For example, if you think you will come across as “stupid or incompetent” you may feel more nervous and begin sweating, which can lead you to avoid an important meeting.
Whatever situation is triggering your social anxiety, you may be able to relate to some of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours in the above example. And, you may wonder what help is available for social anxiety.
How Common Is Social Anxiety and What Causes It?
It is thought that 1 in 10 people in the UK suffer from social anxiety.
There are many reasons a person may become socially anxious, and it may indeed be a combination of factors that explain why you are socially anxious:
We are all born with certain predispositions. One difference between individuals with social anxiety and those without is how quickly they notice physiological changes, like an increased heart rate. Studies have shown that people with social anxiety notice these symptoms faster than those who are not socially anxious.
Your family background can play an important role in the development of social anxiety. Were you encouraged to express yourself, even if it meant looking silly? Or, were you discouraged or criticized for certain behaviours? Was it important to your parents to be liked by others? Did they care too much what others thought of them? The messages and values you learned as a child, may influence how confident you feel in social situations as an adult.
Bullying at school is one of the most common early experiences socially anxious individuals report. Did you feel different to other children growing up? Were you picked on or teased for looking different? Did you have a stutter or other speech impediment? Distressing or traumatic childhood experiences can prevent a child from developing confidence, and over time, can lead to anxiety in social situations.
Why Do I Feel Socially Anxious?
Regardless of the factors that led you to develop social anxiety, there are different reasons why social anxiety persists:
Negative thoughts keep social anxiety going because of the effect they have on how you feel and behave. However, a negative thought is just a thought. It is not a fact, but socially anxious individuals tend to believe their own thoughts as if they were fact.
Negative predictions about a social situation, such as, “I won’t know anybody there” or “I will make a fool of myself”, lead to anxiety and worry. After all, nobody wants to feel foolish or out of place. And when a person feels anxious, they tend to either avoid a social situation or endure it by relying on safety behaviours.
Many individuals with social anxiety have a repertoire of safety behaviours to help them get through difficult social situations. Safety behaviours are those behaviours you engage in to help you feel less nervous or to help you come across well and avoid making a spectacle of yourself.
Examples of safety behaviours include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Holding a pen in your hand
- Sitting down
- Saying very little (letting the other person do most of the talking)
- Rehearsing what you are going to say
While safety behaviours may help you get through a situation in the short-term, they don’t resolve anxiety in the long-term. In many cases, these behaviours stop you from discovering that the feared consequence might not even happen. Imagine you are at a social event, for example, and you are feeling a little anxious. You might decide to stand on the periphery and avoid participating in discussion, or you may ask others a lot of questions about themselves in order to take the focus off of you. Relying on these safety behaviours (standing on the periphery, avoiding talking about yourself) prevents you from finding out that perhaps others will find you interesting and enjoy conversation with you.
Socially anxious individuals typically spend a lot of time thinking about how they are coming across to others. Their attention is on themselves – how they are feeling and how they sound – and they use this information to gauge how well they are coming across to others. There are a couple of problems with this strategy.
When your attention is on you, you cannot, at the same time, pay attention to external cues. These external cues – the nods, smiles, and other non-verbal gestures from others – are important because they tell you how you are doing. You miss the positive feedback when you are self-focused.
The other problem is in relying on how you are feeling to gauge how well you are doing.
We know this is unhelpful because how you feel is subjective; it isn’t necessarily how others see you.
Not only do people with social anxiety make negative predictions about how a social situation will turn out, they are also very skilled at picking apart past social situations. You might replay a conversation or interaction you had with someone—“I shouldn’t have said ‘X’” or “I can’t believe I forgot to shake their hand.” These post mortems, however, serve no purpose; they don’t help improve your future performance and they definitely don’t help you feel any better.
What Are the Consequences or Costs of Social Anxiety?
There are a number of consequences to social anxiety that may be affecting your personal life, relationships, or career. When you worry excessively about what others think of you, you are less likely to express your opinions or participate in conversation for fear that you may be judged negatively. This can leave you feeling isolated from friendship groups or excluded from important meetings and decisions at work.
When social anxiety goes untreated, it can lead to a number of missed opportunities.
Perhaps you turned down a promotion because you worried it would involve more public speaking, presentations or mean playing a more active role in meetings. Social anxiety can also lead to missed “social” opportunities. You may feel incredibly anxious at the thought of making small talk with someone you don’t know. Perhaps talking to a person you find attractive is anxiety-provoking and you find yourself avoiding potential relationships. Alternately, social anxiety may be holding you back from taking things to the next level and developing a deeper, more meaningful connection.
What is CBT for Social Anxiety?
Cognitive-behavioural therapy for social anxiety (CBT for social anxiety) is an evidence-based, highly effective therapy which has been proven effective in helping individuals like you overcome social anxiety.
CBT is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the treatment of social anxiety. CBT involves a variety of tools and treatment techniques, and our work will primarily include:
Cognitive Restructuring: I will help you question negative thoughts instead of automatically “buying into them”.
Behavioural Change: You can feel supported as you learn to test out your beliefs about the validity and usefulness of your safety behaviours (i.e., “If I don’t keep the conversation going they will think I’m boring.”)
Graded Exposure: Facing your fears is the most important step in overcoming social anxierty. Together, we will create a list of anxiety provoking social situations, from easiest to most difficult, to help you start to face your fears.
Reduce Self-focus: Through attention training and repeated practice, you will learn how to focus your attention away from yourself and your symptoms, and onto your audience or the task at hand.
CBT for social anxiety will help you tackle negative thoughts, reduce safety behaviours, and reduce self-consciousness by teaching you how to focus your attention outside yourself, and help put a stop to anxiety-provoking post mortems.
You will learn how to face situations even when anxious, which will enable you to seek out opportunities rather than shy away from them.
CBT Canary Wharf – Making Your Mental Fitness a Priority
Do you wish there was a place in Canary Wharf where you could talk, in confidence, to someone who is experienced in treating social anxiety? Someone who will understand you, listen without judging, and help you take the necessary steps to overcome social anxiety?
You may be at a point now where you can’t afford to let your social anxiety interfere with your work and home life any longer. You may be worried about how this will impact the future of your career if you don’t get help. I get that! And, I have also seen many people conquer their fears.
For over 20 years, I have been helping individuals overcome social anxiety and build their confidence in social situations. I have seen how valuable an evidence-based treatment protocol and an active, solution-focused approach like CBT can be in helping individuals overcome their anxiety.
At CBT Canary Wharf, we will work together to develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs, so that you get the right social anxiety treatment for you. We will work together to make sense of your symptoms, develop an understanding of what is keeping your social anxiety going, and design a treatment plan to help you overcome your social anxiety.
With the right guidance and support, you can overcome symptoms of social anxiety and start to approach opportunities with confidence rather than shying away from them.
Do you still have questions or concerns about social anxiety treatment?
Won’t facing my fears make me feel worse?
In CBT for social anxiety you will not be thrown in at the deep end; I promise! The first few sessions involve developing a shared understanding of the problem, and teaching you the skills you need to recognize and manage your fears. You will be equipped! And, we will always work together at a pace that you feel comfortable with.
I don’t want anyone to know I’m seeing a CBT therapist for social anxiety.
I understand your privacy concerns. One way that I protect your anonymity is by booking meetings so they are spaced out. That way, your session will finish before my next client arrives, and you won’t have to worry about running into someone on your way in or out.
The only time I would need to disclose that you are seeing me is if you were a risk to yourself or to others (see FAQ #9 for more information).
If I attend during the day, won’t I feel worse when I go back to work? I’ll need to be able to concentrate back at the office.
This is an understandable concern, but most of my clients actually feel that they are able to return to work feeling more positive. They feel pleased that they are taking charge and tackling their problems.
Sometimes, however, sessions can feel emotionally draining, and it can be a good idea to leave yourself some time to process the session and prepare yourself mentally before you return to work. I recommend stopping off at a coffee shop en route back to work to give you time to reflect and regroup before returning to work.
What does CBT for Social Anxiety cost?
If you’d like to know more about what CBT for Social Anxiety costs, please visit my Fees page.
Do you have more general questions about CBT?
If you have more questions about CBT, please visit my FAQ page.
Are You Ready to Take the First Step?
If you are ready to address your social anxiety and learn how to manage your anxiety better, or if you still have questions about cognitive behavioural therapy for social anxiety at CBT Canary Wharf, please get in touch with me on (020) 7531-1220 to schedule a preliminary phone consultation. I look forward to hearing from you!