Social anxiety Perth
Social anxiety disorder
Do you have a fear of being judged? Fear of judgment is common and many people can relate to feeling shy, at least a little bit. But people with social anxiety disorder tend to have an overblown fear of other people thinking badly of them. At J&R Psychology in Perth, we provide evidence-based therapy for social anxiety disorder, in children, adolescents and adults.
What is social anxiety disorder?
'The fear of being judged or being the centre of attention’.
Many people can relate to feeling shy, nervous or awkward in social situations from time to time. However, for people with social anxiety disorder, the fear of judgement or criticism by others is much more intense and intrusive. The anxiety causes a lot of distress. It can get so bad that it’s difficult for people to stay in feared social situations, and they may avoid these situations altogether. Some may suffer through them by using alcohol, drugs or other coping strategies such as avoiding eye contact. It can have a negative impact on important areas of life such as relationships and work.
Many people with social anxiety disorder will avoid (or attempt to avoid) social situations such as:
- catching up with friends
- meeting new people
- doing the shopping
- answering the phone
- eating in public: cafes, the staff room at work, or at lunchtime at school
- signing their name or writing in front of others
- being the centre of attention or performing in front of others: giving a speech or talk, or speaking up in a meeting or answering a question in class, music, drama, or sporting performances
- going to a party
For some people, their social anxiety only pops up in situations where they are expected to perform in some way, such as giving a speech or speaking to their boss or teacher.
Either way, the distress and the avoidance of situations can really impact a person’s functioning and quality of life. The anxiety can get in the way of attending events they care about, going to work or school, connecting with others, or doing practical tasks like going grocery shopping.
When a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder is made, it means a person has been struggling with these symptoms for about 6 months or more, but often by the time people come to get help with social anxiety they’ve been feeling that way for many years.
What is performance anxiety?
Performance anxiety is considered a type of social anxiety. Often called ‘stage fright’, this anxiety appears when a person is in a performance situation:
- on stage,
- an exam,
- a meeting,
- in class,
- on the sporting field.
When in a performance situation and others are watching us, our body can react as if we’re under attack; the flight or fight response is activated and we can experience severe anxiety symptoms. Performance anxiety can impact your performance, your enjoyment of valued activities, your self-confidence and self-esteem.
How common is social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety treatment Perth
How are social anxiety and performance anxiety treated?
The good news is that social anxiety disorder and performance anxiety tend to respond well to cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). CBT teaches people to understand their anxious thoughts, to tolerate experiencing some anxiety, and to gradually face situations they’ve been avoiding to overcome their fears and regain their life.
Typical socially anxious thoughts that we would help people with in therapy include:
- What I say sounds stupid
- I’m boring, weird, or unlikeable
- I will make a fool of myself
- Everyone will see I’m anxious
- I’ll be rejected or criticised
- I can’t cope if I’m anxious
- I have nothing to say
- People will think badly of me
- I must perform at a high-level
- Others expect too much of me
- Mistakes are unacceptable
- I must prove myself
- develop self-compassion and helpful thinking styles
- plan for entering social situations in a graded way (easiest to hardest)
- practice (imagery and role-play) social interactions to help you feel more ready to build social connections
- gradually let go of any crutches that you use to cope with your anxiety (e.g. avoiding eye contact, withdrawing from social situations, or speaking quietly)
- increase your tolerance for feeling anxious, helping you to accept and cope with some anxiety, rather than feeling that you must get rid of it
- cognitive behavioural therapy,
- the combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy.
Research studies suggest that acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) may also be effective in managing social anxiety and performance anxiety.
Your J&R psychologist will structure the intervention for your unique experience, and pace it in a way that feels manageable. Ready to fight social anxiety? Get in touch today.