Social Anxiety: Extreme Anxiety
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) can cause turmoil for those who live as well as suffer from it. This disorder is not just timidity but rather anxiety so extreme that it disrupts daily life by negatively impacting the number of social or romantic relationships and creating a perception of helplessness, isolation, judgment, and shame. Social Anxiety Disorder onset tends to occur around age 13, but can develop at any age and impacts over 14 million Americans across a lifespan. Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder often ruminate about how they feel: terrified, humiliated, or embarrassed in social situations and tend to seek treatment after experiencing social anxiety for 10 or more years.
CBT Targets Rumination in Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy targeting ruminations because they negatively distort one’s view of social situations. Evidence of this assertion has gained greater support recently from a study by Brozovich et al that identified how ruminations may be the key factor in anxiety variations (2015). Ruminations are reflexive evaluations of one’s situation with an unattained social goal. For example, individuals with social anxiety may believe that if they say the wrong thing then the person they are interacting with may think there is something wrong with them. This perception leads to high levels of anxiety and avoidant behaviors. They also make similar assumptions about future social interactions. CBT helps those with social anxiety evaluate these situations in a more balanced manner.
The balance can be obtained by addressing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with problem solving, behavioral experiments, thought challenging, and by addressing firm personal beliefs about the world. Relief can be achieved with the help of a psychotherapist who is highly trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Together, the individual with Social Anxiety Disorder and the psychotherapist begin to work on ruminations as well as the other factors that inhibit social balance.
Kevin Caridad ACT, LCSW, PhD
Board Member, National Social Anxiety Center; Director, NSAC Pittsburgh
Email: [email protected] Phone: 724 814 9708
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