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Social Anxiety - Tis the Season!

By Beth Irvine

With sweaty palms and pounding heart, you swallow the lump in your throat and make your way into the large, crowded room. Even though you are at your spouse’s holiday office party, he is nowhere to be seen. As you stand in the middle of the room, scanning for someone familiar, you feel perspiration forming along the back of your neck and notice a lightheadedness that isn’t from the glass of wine in your hand.

Sound familiar? Are you feeling nervous about upcoming social obligations this holiday season?  Most everyone feels a little skittish about walking into a room full of people they don’t know. And, most everyone can relate to having experienced this similar kind of feeling at some stage of his or her life.

Many millions of people suffer from a form of social anxiety. In fact, it's estimated that one out of every eight people experiences some degree of social anxiety. Social anxiety is a problem characterized by the emotions of shame, humiliation and embarrassment.

People with social anxiety disorder usually experience significant emotional distress in the following situations:

·         Being introduced to other people

·         Being watched while doing something

·         Meeting people in authority ("important people")

·         Most social encounters, particularly with strangers

·         Making "small talk" at parties

·         Going around the room in a circle and having to say something

Do those situations make you feel uncomfortable or fearful? Would you rather just stay home?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, rather than external things, like people, situations, and events. Therefore, if we can change the way we think, we can change what we are feeling, even if the situation does not change.

According to psychologist Thomas A. Richards, Ph.D., “Getting over social anxiety disorder is not an easy task; yet many thousands have already done it. While you’re in the middle of the problem, it feels hopeless—that you’ll never ever get better. Life is just one gut-wrenching anxiety problem after another. But this can be stopped, quenched, and reduced in a relatively short period of time—but you must find a cognitive-behavioral therapist who understands and specializes in the treatment of social anxiety."

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