How to change your thinking and behavior to decrease social anxiety

Good therapy is difficult to find. Many therapists will focus only on your thinking, emotions, or changing your behavior. This is especially true for social anxiety. However, excellent therapists will help clients experiencing social anxiety change their thinking, manage their emotions, and improve their behavior to decrease the social anxiety, rather than just focusing in on only one of those areas.

To begin, a therapist could help you identify some of the potential unhelpful or irrational thoughts that you might have about interacting with others. Some common unhelpful thoughts about social anxiety might have include: “Other people are not going to like me.” “This person is going to think I am boring.” “This is going to be awkward.” As a result of these unhelpful thoughts, you may feel anxious, nervous, uncomfortable, or irritable when you around other people. These thoughts and feelings may lead to a person to engage in avoidant, defensive, or timid behavior around others. More specifically, a person may be less likely to go to a party, out with friends, or pursue romantic relationships as a result of these unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

Similar to how sensory research encompasses all aspects of the consumer-product interaction (, you can decrease social anxiety by focusing on interaction between your thoughts and behavior . In order to help the client, therapists help to identify alternative thoughts to change the way the person feels and behaves. In this situation involving social anxiety, a therapist may ask you if there are any alternative thoughts that might help you feel better when you are around others. Ironically, asking the person what the worst case scenario may be when they around others might help the person simultaneously identify their fears and then realize they can handle their fears. For instance, the client may say to a therapist, my greatest fear about this situation is that the people at the dinner won’t like me and think I am awkward, or this date will go terrible because I am boring. The therapist could then, ask, “Well if that happens could you handle it if others think you are awkward or don’t like you. I know you might not prefer outcome, but if it happened, could you handle that or learn from that?” Most clients would agree that they may not like that outcome, but could handle it or learn from it.

Letting a person know they could handle a difficult situation is a way to relieve anxiety and is much different than traditional “positive thinking”. As a result of helping a client confront their fears about their worst case scenario involing social anxiety, the client’s anxiety actually decreases because they begin to believe they can handle the situation even if they don’t like it. Thus, the client develops a more helpful thought or belief such as, “I don’t prefer it when other people don’t like me, but I can handle it.” As a result of replacing their initial unhelpful thought with a more helpful thought, the client’s feelings of social anxiety actually decreases.

The client’s social anxiety may not be completely gone, which is okay. However, if the therapist can help the client change their mind and decrease their social anxiety just a little bit, then that slight change can help the client improve their behavior around others. For instance, that change in thinking and decrease in social anxiety may help change the client’s behavior from avoiding the party to deciding to attend the party. Additionally, since the client’s social anxiety has decreased, when the client attends the party or goes on a date, then he or she will be more likely to be engaging, relaxed and confident with others, which will improve the chances of other people liking them and wanting to be around them in the future. Further, it can help to find alternative activities at home that you may both enjoy such as playing video games on an Anda Seat  or drinking espresso (

Social anxiety is just one common issue that therapists can help you with. Other issues therapists can help you with include depression, relationship problems, work stress, difficult transitions in life, identity issues, and helping you to fulfill your potential.

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