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 


Matt said...

A good tip I learned is to write down all the situations that make you feel nervous and then to put them in the order from the easiest to the most intimidating at the top. Then use that list as a 'ladder' in which you slowly climb each rung (even if you slip occasionally) until you, hopefully, climb out of feeling anxious of those situations at the top.

Admittedly, climbing a ladder of anxious situations is harder than it sounds, but I think a goal driven strategy gives you something to aim for and gives you a sense of accomplishment with each rung cleared.


Mark Houston Recovery said...

I agree with Matt- I find it really helpful to keep a diary or journal and record all of the instances or situations where I felt uncomfortable and what triggered those feelings....it will help you to better assess your anxiety :)

.: moogle fishy :. said...

Any updates?

stress treatment said...

This post certainly gave me some great ideas to try! I have certainly benefited from joining yoga. It clears my mind and relaxes me. I do have to say that there are some natural anxiety remedies I have found to be beneficial such as St.John's Wort, SAMe, L-Theanine, and Tryptophan. Hope this helps as well!

Anxiety Treatment Clinic said...


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is currently the most successful way to treat Anxiety Disorders across many research studies. The use of exposures is vital in reducing anxiety symptomology. Below are a some things we do we with our clients. If anyone has additional ideas, we would love your feedback!

1) Start conversation with at least 3 random people and find out things you have in common with them

2) Return items once they have either been purchased or packaged (e.g. going to the deli section and telling the clerk that you are not interested in the cheese that was already packaged specifically for you)

3) making phone calls to different stores/restaurants and asking them questions about items they sell

4) asking people for directions

5) toastmasters

6) karaoke

7) consuming caffeine before participating in an anxiety-provoking situation

In a nutshell the best way to overcome social anxiety or anxiety in general is to face your fears. Through exposures and cognitive restructuring you can start living life to its fullest. Hope this helps

Dr. Craig Marker
Anxiety Treatment Clinic
915 Middle River Dr. Suite 320
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

Unknown said...

Really helpful, thanks a lot !
Anxiety Treatment

Anonymous said...

I have tried a lot of these and they help. I have been taking communications classes and they help a lot too. People think that communication is natural not taught but it really is learned. We can learn from professionals how to not be as anxious and have positive social experiences. http://www.drjuanformento.com/Family-Therapy-Freehold-NJ.html