Many people feel uncomfortable or nervous in certain social situations, especially in situations when others are evaluating them such as speaking in front of a group or dating. When the anxiety becomes overpowering it can lead to either facing the fear but feeling incredibly anxious before, during, and/or afterward or alternatively avoidance of the situation.
The essence of social anxiety relates to a fear of being embarrassed, humiliated, or feeling ashamed in social situations in which individuals feel another person(s) are noticing and/or judging them. Social anxiety often also presents as a concern about offending other people. Below are some common examples of situations that evoke heightened levels of anxiety for people with social anxiety.
– Being in the presence of others
– Meeting new people
– Parties and formal events
– Public speaking
– Eating at restaurants
– Attending class, lectures, meetings
– Spending time with family and friends
– Going to the movies
Increasing an individual’s self-confidence and reducing their heightened importance placed on others’ thoughts, opinions, and actions are both key components of the therapeutic process. An effective way to build one’s confidence is by doing; therefore exposure work is a helpful technique to utilize both during and outside of the therapy sessions. Exposures can be imaginal (vividly thinking about an anxiety provoking social situation) or in vivo (directly facing the challenging situation); both types are valuable in helping the person build confidence in their ability to handle feared social situations.