How Can Therapy Help with Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety affects millions every year, yet more than half of those living with the disorder don’t seek treatment. It’s common to feel anxious or nervous in unfamiliar situations, but for those with a social anxiety disorder, these feelings are elevated to debilitating degrees. When it comes to tracking down the source of social anxiety and coping with it in healthy ways, the best tool in anyone’s belt comes in the form of therapy. Whether group sessions, individual, or a combination of both, seeking a therapist in times of social anxiety is a step on the path to progress.

Social anxiety 101

In order to fully appreciate the positive effects of therapy on this common anxiety disorder, it’s important to first understand social anxiety disorder (SAD) as a whole. Nearly 15 million Americans are affected by social anxiety disorder. This equates to over six percent of the US population.

In times of elevated social anxiety, patients may feel symptoms such as increased heart rate, excessive sweating, dry mouth, stomach irritability, difficulty breathing, and lightheadedness. Symptoms can last for a moment or cause a flare of anxiety lasting for weeks. Patients with social anxiety are unique in their triggers and symptoms, but generally, society anxiety is increased during times of uncertainty, uncharted territory, focused attention, or social interaction. The main fears as a result of these triggers are social isolation, judgment, or embarrassment.

Therapy for social anxiety

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to mental illness, starting with a basis of therapy can set the path for healing. Symptoms of social anxiety can be treated as a whole or individually based on severity. For some, relief is found in a combination of medications and therapy, for others, it can be managed through holistic remedies and lifestyle changes. NYC therapists, such as those at the Therapy Group of NYC, will often evaluate their patients’ unique triggers and symptoms, and use data-driven approaches tailored specifically to their particular case.

When it comes to therapy for social anxiety, the most common technique used is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT is a form of therapy rooted in the link between cognitive functions and consequential behaviors. Patients will commonly attend weekly sessions for roughly 12 to 16 weeks, each lasting anywhere from an hour to one hour and a half. This form of therapy studies the triggers that cause anxiety symptoms and creates a plan of action to alter or reverse them. 

Another common form of therapy for social anxiety disorder is exposure and response prevention, or ERP. Put simply, ERP works by exposing patients to that which causes their symptoms and creating responses that reverse them in a healthy manner. This action stops anxiety symptoms in their path before they inflate to a point of debilitation.

Often times ERP therapy deals not only with responding healthily, but also in disengaging triggered stimuli at its start. ERP teaches patients to detect their triggers, respond, or refuse to engage. In time, a process known as habituation occurs in which the patient presents a lessening of anxiety as a result of continual exposure and lack of response.

Certain patients may also benefit from group therapy. In these sessions, patients are encouraged to present scenarios in which they feel triggered by their anxiety. This provides each patient in attendance the opportunity to face their triggers, evaluate proper responses, and test them until they find one that calms their symptoms.

When it comes to the debilitating symptoms of social anxiety disorder, life can often feel like a constant storm of fear and worry. One of the best ways to combat this storm is by finding a trusted therapist and beginning the path toward healing.

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