What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Giving a talk in front of a group, walking into a room full of strangers, or meeting with the boss can make anyone somewhat anxious, but for the person with social phobia, such situations cause intense fear and even panic attacks. Individuals with social phobia fear being evaluated negatively by others, and worry excessively about embarrassing themselves. This overwhelming fear often leads the person to avoid social situations. Social phobia is not the normal nervousness a person has before meeting new people, it is an intense fear that causes that person to avoid that situation, significantly disrupting the person’s life.

There is hope for individuals with anxiety disorders, because these problems can be effectively treated with cognitive behavior therapy.  Cognitive behavioral treatments typically involve four main components. Education about the nature of anxiety helps the individual understand his or her responses and teaches the individual ways to more effectively cope with anxiety. Somatic management skills teach relaxation and breathing techniques, which help the individual manage the physical symptoms and discomfort of anxiety. Cognitive skills address the individual’s beliefs and thoughts, and focus on teaching more adaptive, realistic thinking styles. And, all treatments for anxiety involve some form of behavioral exposure, a gradual, step-by-step confrontation of the fear with mastery and skill.