Apr 13, 2009

Exposure Therapy Helps Relieve Social Anxiety

No man is an island, and as human beings, we have to interact with society in some form or the other if we are to survive on a day to day basis. So you can understand how social anxiety becomes a problem for those who live with it day after day and restrict their lives because of this mental disorder. When you’re afraid of communication and other aspects of public life like driving, flying, walking on the streets, shopping and the like, you can see how it becomes a problem to do perform even the most basic activities.

While some people turn to medication as a way to resolve these feelings of anxiety and fear, drugs are not recommended unless your symptoms are severe and unmanageable. Besides, medicines that are used to treat such disorders include anti-depressants, beta blockers and benzodiazepines that are full of chemicals that could turn out to be addictive and that also come with their own side effects. Instead of relying on medicines, one of the best ways to tackle social anxiety is to try exposure therapy.

For those of you who know how to ride a bike, this form of treatment is just like learning to ride your bike for the first time. You’re scared, you have no sense of balance, and you’re terrified of hurting yourself. But you go ahead and try it because you so badly want to ride that new bike. Exposure therapy is all about overcoming your fears too, step by step, bit by bit. Just as someone holds on to your bike for the first few minutes and then lets go so that you try to gain a sense of balance, exposure therapy too involves breaking down your fear into smaller pieces and tackling the smallest one first.

So if you’re scared to talk to the opposite sex, start out by talking to someone you already know, like the girl/boy next door who always smiles at you, the smile that you were too nervous to return until now. Then move on to talking to people who are normally courteous, like salespeople and customer service representatives. It’s not going to be easy, and just like in the biking lesson, you’re going to end up falling quite a few times. But the key to success is to pick yourself up, brush the dust off your clothes, forget the minor bruises that you may have, and get right back on that bike again.

xposure therapy works best when you have someone to support you, just as your dad or mom would hold on to the bike till you’re able to find your bearings. You also need to know when to push yourself and when to stop – go as far as your fear will let you go but stop once you reach that point. You need to keep at one level till you feel no fear at all, and only then can you move on to the next level. It’s a slow process, but the infusion of confidence you feel when you master each level and move on to the next one will help you cross the next one faster than you did the first. So stick with it, and you’ll find yourself managing your anxiety in no time at all.

This post was contributed by Alisa Johnson, who writes about the types of nurses. She welcomes your feedback at Alisa.Johnson1982 at gmail.com