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Talk Therapy May Help Social Anxiety Better than Drugs

Diane Luke
Senior Editor, TipsHire

Social Anxiety Treated With Talk Therapy

Social phobia or social anxiety is when a person always feels uncertain, anxious, tense, or even terrified in certain types of social situations (specific form of social anxiety) or in most social situations (generalized form). Social Phobia is a form of clinical anxiety that occurs in between 7 and 12% of people, being one of the most prevalent anxiety problems, and usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood. Social anxiety treated with talk therapy is more likely to be cured than the one treated with drugs.

Facts about social anxiety

First of all, we must understand that it is natural for most people to feel tense or excited in certain social situations. For example, it may be an interview, a public hearing, a meeting with a dear person, a discussion with a person in a position of authority (e.g. you boss), or when meeting new people.

In such situations, it can often happen that our hearts beat harder, we sweat, we shake, our voice tremors, or our hands are sweaty and shaky.

But these things usually diminish as time passes and we adjust to the situation we are in, and this feeling doesn’t prevent us from doing what we have intended to do. We often do not forget to look back at such a situation and say that we were a little excited, but it went well, after all.

In contrast, for people with social anxiety, or social phobia, these situations are very difficult to bear for the following reasons:

  • Their anxiety escalates uncontrollably – often people with social anxiety feel overwhelmed by fear or restlessness to the point where they feel they have no air to breath, they tremble uncontrollably, they can not speak, they get dizzy, they do not have words, or they will vomit.
  • Their attention can not get away from things that go wrong – someone laughed, there was a laugh in the hall, and they stammered, their voice was shaking, they roared like a raccoon, they said stupid things – people with social phobia notice very quickly the unpleasant things about their situation and, once they notice them, they can not get their attention away from them. Practically, their own feelings of stress or the reactions of dissatisfaction or lack of interest of a person in the audience become the dominant note of the whole social experience.
  • They are terrified of ridicule, of the possibility that the audience will laugh, and that they will create a bad impression on others – people with social anxiety or phobia are exaggeratedly concerned about the impression they leave to others.

For these reasons, people with social anxiety anticipate with great anxiety every social situations because they are convinced that they will not do well and even expect something to go terribly stupid, and often try to avoid them in many ways:

  • they don’t respond to the invitations to go out in the city
  • excuse themselves that they don’t feel well and can not come to a meeting
  • sit in the corner of a room at a party
  • sit behind the classroom
  • refuses to speak in public
  • ask other people to speak on the phone instead
  • stop talking to their bosses

Anxiety or fear of social situations should not be automatically interpreted as a clinical diagnosis.

In fact, between the ages of 14-24, about 20% of men and about 30% of women have various fears that are quite strong about social situations.

Diagnosis of social anxiety is taken into consideration when the anxiety experienced in social situations and the avoidance of such situations become so intense and persistent that it is causing damage and suffering to the individual.

For example, the person is very dissatisfied with his or her life, feels he loses a lot of social or professional opportunities, is difficult to carry out his daily activities, is difficult to work, or feels exhausted by the constant stress of this anxiety.

How does the social anxiety appear?

If we understand the causes of social phobia, then we understand how to treat it.

First of all, we need to realize that there is not one factor explaining all the clinical main picture.

In fact, we can talk about general factors of vulnerability (e.g. factors that predispose some individuals to develop a social anxiety throughout their lives), specific causal factors (e.g. factors that currently explain the occurrence of clinical symptoms), and maintenance and chronic factors (e.g. factors that do not directly cause symptoms of social phobia, but preserve and worsen the anxiety in the long run).

How is social anxiety treated?

Social anxiety is not a transitory problem.

Data from clinical and community studies have shown that social anxiety or phobia has a chronic evolution with symptoms that can persist over a period of more than 20 years if not treated properly.

As with all anxiety disorders, there are two types of well-validated treatments, which are applied independently or in combination:

  • psychotherapy
  • medication

Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (often abbreviated CBT) is based on countless clinical studies that show that psychological problems such as anxiety and depression can be corrected by changing how people think and how they act. These are the focus of CBT psychotherapy:

  • correcting excessive focus on negative aspects
  • correcting catastrophic interpretations
  • stopping avoidance behaviors
  • and so on…

Practically, through CBT psychotherapy, people with social anxiety learn that the anxiety during social situations can be brought under the control with their minds.

Medication that is used to overcome the effects of social anxiety are of three types of drugs:

  • antidepressants
  • benzodiazepines
  • beta-blockers

However, due to the fact that social anxiety is usually a chronic illness, the effect of these medications is on the short-term, and discontinuation of treatment brings about a recurrence of problems.

That is why the advantage of psychotherapy in combination with the medication is the durable over time and with the absence of side effects.

Social anxiety treated with talk therapy

A new study concluded that social anxiety can be successfully treated with talk therapy. The study gathered the data collected by more than 100 clinical reports on social anxiety patients, dated between 1988 and 2013, which have involved almost 15,000 people suffering from this condition.

The researchers revealed that those patients who have got CBT have been successfully cured of social anxiety in comparison with those who have got only a treatment based on medication.

The researchers confirmed the fact that social anxiety, if not treated, is not disappearing by itself, therefore they recommend at least one of the two main treatments for social anxiety: CBT and/or medication.

On the other hand, the study also confirmed another fact. CBT can be combined with medication for better results.

Thus, social anxiety treated with talk therapy is real and has been proven statistically by a study that collected more than 100 data of almost 15,000 people who have suffered from social anxiety.

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I am a young woman, a mother of two beautiful kids, and I am passionate about reading and writing. I am a flexible writer, with huge experience on topics related to health, babies and kids, lifestyle, fashion, IT&Tech, relationships, and world’s mysteries.

Armed with my articles as weapons against wrongness, I hope to help people living a better and healthier life, and I’ll always be a militant for justice, trying to teach people about what is good and what is wrong.

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