Thursday, 7 April 2011

When its more than just shyness …

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“What is Social Anxiety?

‘Regular’ social anxiety is known to all of us as an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness. Many people have particular worries about social situations like public speaking or talking to authority figures, or experience more general feelings of shyness or a lack of confidence.
For some, however, these social anxieties and fears can become much more troubling and difficult to cope with. Everyday tasks which most people take for granted - such as working, socialising, shopping, speaking on the telephone, even just going out of the house - might be a wearing ordeal marked by persistent feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness. Public performances or social gatherings might be out of the question.

When the social anxiety becomes this bad, sufferers could be diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia. Shyness is not a criteria for diagnosis. Sufferers differ in how naturally reserved or outgoing they may be and in regard to the sorts of situations or people they might find most difficult or might be OK with. Individuals who are particularly socially inhibited, avoidant and sensitive to criticism or rejection may meet criteria for Avoidant Personality Disorder, now seen by many as only the more extreme or generalised end of an ‘SA spectrum’.

Sufferers typically experience excessive feelings of nervousness or dread in relation to feared social situations. They may experience specific physical symptoms such as trembling, rapid breathing, sweating or blushing. At the extreme, panic attacks can occur. Sufferers tend to be very self-conscious and worried about whether others might be evaluating them negatively. They tend to ruminate over past social incidents, worrying about how they might have come across.

At a deeper level, sufferers can experience chronic insecurity about their relationships with others, hypersensitivity to criticism, or fears of being rejected by others. Many people can go through this kind of experience during adolescence, but for SA’ers the problems can persist well beyond those years. Over time, many sufferers come to avoid the situations they fear or become very inhibited or defensive in situations, often leading to depression and loneliness.

If you have experienced or do experience feelings such as these, you could well have Social Anxiety or the more severe form - Social Anxiety Disorder. Experiencing these kinds of feelings and thoughts can be very isolating, you can feel like the only person in the world with these kinds of problems, but one of the most reassuring things that many people gain from joining the SAUK community is that they are not alone, that others have experienced and continue to experience the same thoughts and feelings.
Do not despair in your situation, there is help available, work continues within the field of Social Anxiety and many techniques and methods are now employed in helping people cope with and overcome the thoughts and feelings that drive Social Anxiety, and support is always available through the SAUK Forum and Chatroom, try to remember, you are not alone.”

Common Features
People with social anxiety tend to have specific negative beliefs about themselves in social situations. These beliefs are usually triggered by an up and coming social event, causing anticipatory anxiety. When we become social anxious we tend to focus on how we are coming across to others. These thoughts cause us to feel physical symptoms of anxiety that can cause embarrassment. Usually, when we become socially anxious we have set ourselves high standard of how to act, that are unrealistic or rules we would not usually place on others. Often when we are socially anxious we think about how we could do better in social situations - causing the fear on entering an event and the churning over past interactions.

Treatment Options
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is the treatment of choice for social anxiety disorder.
CBT address the way information is processed in social anxiety disorder by understanding the process and finding new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving in specific interactions. Patients usually require 8-12 sessions of therapy.

Efficacy is a pure CBT service based in three London locations and Sevenoaks with a team of BABCP accredited CBT therapists. All accredited cognitive behavioural therapists will be trained mental health professionals and competent in the diagnosis and treating social anxiety. So you can be assured that you health is in the hands of trusted health care professionals.

Evidence Base
Cognitive behaviour therapy is effective in adults and has been shown to reduce symptoms, improve function and improve quality of life. CBT aims to change the way one thinks, behaves and feels, so one learns to identify the thoughts and feelings that are causing certain behaviours.
Telephone: 020 7808 7900

For more help and info: r-cbt-london.html?gclid=CIzwiPDp7qcCFQoa4QodKzD-aw

Other International Support:

Contact addresses 
A directory of contact addresses for national and international support groups and organisations, including a state-by-state listing for the USA, is provided at:

Freedom From Fear 
An easy-access patient-dedicated site for this USA-based charity. Information on membership, meetings and events, and a message board is included. Detailed patient information on anxiety and depressive disorders is available.

First Steps to Freedom
The website of this UK charity for individuals with anxiety disorders or phobias provides details of a confidential help line, as well as membership information. Fact sheets on a range of anxiety disorders and phobias can be obtained by writing to the organisation.

National Phobic Society 
The website for this UK-based organisation is soon to be launched. In the meantime, contact details are available from:

South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group 
The website of this organisation provides information on forthcoming meetings, and a referral list of medical professionals. In addition, a help line, a question and answer section, and quarterly newsletters are available. With over 7000 members nationwide, this organisation provides valuable support for people in South Africa who suffer from anxiety disorders.

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