5 Best CBT Strategies To Overcome Your Social Anxiety

Keegan Warrington
May 30, 2022

As humans, it is normal to feel anxious whenever we deal with stressful life situations. While most of us can handle it, some people struggle with frequent episodes of intense social anxiety. Thankfully, CBT for social anxiety can help manage this condition.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 12.1 percent of adults in the United States have experienced social anxiety at some point in their lives.

Social anxiety disorder involves a range of feelings, including fear of intimacy, public performance, negative judgment, and rejection. It could interfere with school, work, and other daily activities. It could also hurt your relationships.

Social anxiety often begins during the teenage years, but it could also surface in childhood or adulthood. It is a chronic mental health condition that can be crippling, but one can gain confidence and improve their ability to engage with others with the proper coping mechanisms.

What are the Symptoms of Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety goes beyond simple shyness. It is an excessive amount of fear that causes physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms like

  • blushing, shaking, sweating, feeling nauseous, and faster heart rate whenever you feel overwhelmed
  • panic attacks
  • the constant fear of meeting strangers, starting conversations, and speaking in public
  • intense fear of being judged
  • avoiding social activities and large gatherings
  • finding it hard to do something while others are watching
  • feeling self-conscious, embarrassed, and awkward in front of other people
  • having a stiff body posture and a soft voice
  • avoiding eye contact
  • having low self-esteem, prone to negative self-talk, and sensitivity to criticism

Social anxiety may also appear alongside other mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse. If this hinders you from doing several things, you may need a CBT therapist near me to overcome your anxiety.

What are the Best CBT Strategies To Overcome Your Social Anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioural therapy uses different techniques to help address your mental health issue. It is common for CBT therapists in Los Angeles and other cities to treat social anxiety by following the Clark and Wells cognitive model.

This model believes that social situations trigger a set of beliefs and assumptions that were shaped by your past experiences. Having these notions impels socially anxious people to perceive specific social settings as threatening and feel as though they are always bound to fail.  

It activates anxious responses such as safety behaviours, physical and emotional anxiety symptoms, and self-focused attention.

Avoiding situations that give you stress can make you feel better for a short time, but skipping therapy won’t manage your symptoms sustainably. Navigate social situations more productively through these CBT strategies.

1. Psychoeducation

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In this technique, therapists educate patients about their social anxiety disorder, explain what it entails, and show the evidence-based treatment that could help address it. It allows them to be less fearful and more open to healing.

Discovering the psychological components of social anxiety allows a person to examine how certain beliefs cause them to avoid social interactions and aggravate their anxiety.

When patients learn how to identify distorted thoughts, they can avoid falling into the trap of believing anything that their brain tells them. They’ll begin to understand that their perception of things isn’t always the absolute truth.

2. Cognitive Restructuring

This strategy teaches you to recognize negative ideas or self-talk that triggers your social anxiety. Furthermore, it enables you to challenge these thoughts against reality and come up with a constructive attitude that is more realistic and empathetic.

This technique propels you to examine your unconventional thought patterns in social situations. Some of these are:

  • assuming the worst will happen
  • mental filtering or not taking notice of the positive events
  • black-and-white thinking
  • emotional reasoning
  • overgeneralization

Pointing out these problematic perspectives can help you reframe or restructure your thoughts. Long Beach psychiatrists can do this by guiding you through an imagined situation or an event that has already happened. This will give you an in-depth view of your thought patterns, and from here, you can practice applying alternative ways of thinking.

3. Attention Training

When you solely focus your attention on yourself, you can monitor your thoughts, actions, and words. However, this also takes away your chance of identifying the actual reaction of other people.

Attention training teaches you to redirect your attention to other people. Paying attention to others during interactions allows you to see how they genuinely respond to you. You’ll soon realize that they don’t even notice the things you worry about.

4. Systematic Desensitization

This approach incorporates relaxation and gradual exposure to social situations until you overcome your discomfort. Systemic desensitization follows these three core steps:

  1. relaxation technique
  2. listing down your fears and ranking them based on the intensity
  3. Exposing yourself to anxiety-inducing events

The underlying theory behind this strategy is classical conditioning or associative learning. The objective here is to get control of your fear by replacing it with calmness.

If talking with strangers gives you low-level fear, you can take baby steps, such as greeting a classmate or colleague who sits beside you. If you’re profusely sweating and your heart palpitates, practice doing slow, deep breaths until you feel better.

5. Behavioral Experiments

This activity checks the validity of one’s belief in themselves, other people, and the world. It aims to accomplish two goals:

  • understand unhelpful safety behaviours and self-monitoring
  • test the accuracy of negative self-notions and worst-case scenario predictions

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For example, you are invited to an event. The first thing you’ll likely think as a socially anxious person is that you’ll say something wrong or you’re afraid that no one will listen to you.

A behavioural experiment can check how accurate your predictions are. Instead of being your usual self who will try to avoid any conversation, you will try to talk to a few people this time. During your next session, your therapist will ask whether your prediction happened.

Your therapist might also put you in a scenario and record your role-playing exercise. This allows you to review the video and observe how you act in social settings.

Long Beach CA Psychiatrist: Experienced Clinicians That Will Give You The Best Outcomes

It is normal to feel anxious whenever you are in uncomfortable or challenging situations. However, having excessive anxiety even when doing simple activities can interfere with your daily life. It can affect your physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual health. When that happens, you take away the inner peace you deserve.

Evidence-based treatment like CBT for social anxiety can help you identify your problems and treat them effectively. By applying all the strategies we’ve mentioned above, you can reclaim your life and cope with anxiety more healthily.

If you need psychotherapy for CBT, our team at Roots Through Recovery can tailor a treatment for you. We will select the most suitable therapist and techniques based on your personality and specific needs. Contact us at info@rootstms.com or at (562) 203-0567.

Keegan Warrington