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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Social Anxiety

If you are suffering from social anxiety, you must be tired of feeling confused and self-conscious in social situations. You may avoid interacting with new people or stay quiet in groups as you think you will be judged or rejected. 

This social anxiety is a common problem affecting millions of people globally. Those with social anxiety eagerly want to live freely without the burden of being too concerned about other people’s opinions about them.  So yes, you can live freely as a lot of people have already benefitted from the powerful tool of cognitive behavioral therapy to overcome their condition of social anxiety. 

Let’s explore in this blog post how cognitive behavioral therapy can help you boost your confidence and improve your life. 

How Will You Identify Social Anxiety?

Those with social anxiety or social phobia have a mental health condition due to which they feel extreme and persistent fear, nervousness, or anxiety in case of facing social situations or just thinking about them. This is not shyness or introversion which is a calm personality trait rather with social anxiety, you are too worried about being judged or rejected by others.

Some symptoms that can help you identify social anxiety include: 

  • Sweating, trembling, blushing, nausea, avoiding eye contact, or speaking low when in social situations.
  • Avoiding social situations completely unless they include only a few trusted loved ones or participating with extreme distress.
  • Hard for you to make friends or maintain your relationships.
  • Think too much about how others perceive you and feel self-conscious in social gatherings.
  • Have the perception that people will reject you if you want to befriend them. 
  • You have a desire for acceptance and want to leave your interactions with a positive image of you.
  • You have a strong belief that you will do something that will embarrass you bringing criticism and negative attention. 

If you have noticed these signs, you must think about going for therapy for your betterment. 

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works To Tackle Your Social Anxiety?

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is a talk therapy in which the therapist begins by assessing your symptoms, history, and goals you want to achieve with this therapy and then educates you about the CBT approach for managing your condition. 
  • This therapy then helps you identify your present negative and unhelpful thoughts or emotions that are making you avoid social situations or giving you stress in social settings, challenge those thought patterns, and guide you on how you can reframe them to become helpful for you. 

For example, instead of saying I can’t be part of social gatherings as I am very boring, you will say I may keep asking some questions to keep the conversation going as I am not exactly sure which specific topic to talk about. 

  • You will also learn some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing to tackle your physical symptoms. 
  • To see more practical results, you will be gradually asked to expose yourself to social situations you are fearful of. 
  • The therapy will guide you about coping strategies to manage any associated anxiety and feel calmer. 

This therapy teaches you to be imperfect and not too hard on yourself. It guides you to gracefully see your mistakes without feeling overwhelmed as mistakes are part of life and learning. 

You will learn your self-worth and that your ideas hold value and must be made part of the social settings you are attending. Maintaining this progress and preventing relapse is an important aspect of this therapy to get lifelong results.

What Benefits You Can Drive From CBT For Social Anxiety?

Some of the benefits you will see can be:

  • Better confidence and self-esteem.
  • Decreased anxiety in social settings and change in avoidance behavior.
  • Building social connections and improvement in relationships.
  • Better able to tackle stressful situations.
  • Long-term improvement in mental well-being and quality of life.

How Effective Is CBT For Social Anxiety According To Research?

According to a 2014 review study, CBT was found the most effective for treating social anxiety when compared to other treatment options such as self-help or medication. Another 2015 study also highlighted that CBT was better than exposure therapy plus applied relaxation for improving social anxiety symptoms.

A 2016 research study involving 42 individuals living with social anxiety found that CBT may treat social anxiety symptoms that are not responsive to antidepressants. 6 sessions of this therapy may decrease your avoidance behavior and self-consciousness.

What Are Some Common Techniques of CBT For Social Anxiety?

Here are mentioned some common techniques of CBT for social anxiety. Therapists may use a combination of them to get the best results. 

Restructuring Cognitive Patterns

In this technique, you will be encouraged to closely examine the cognitive distortions or negative thought patterns that you are having in your social settings. Some of them can be:

  • Ignoring anything positive
  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • Having the belief that your emotions are truths
  • Catastrophizing means that you think about the worst-possible case or exaggerate the negative consequences of your social settings 
  • Overgeneralization. 

This step of identifying your irrational or distorted thought patterns is an extremely important step for reframing your thoughts or behaviors. 

The therapist may take you to an experience of your life or make an imagined situation and help you explore your distorted thought patterns. When you identify what is wrong, you can work to correct it and this also happens under your therapist’s guidance. 

For example, if you gave a presentation last morning and because of your nervousness made some mistakes such as speaking too quickly or ignoring some important details. Now you just keep focusing on these imperfections and ignore everything good that happened such as a wonderful question-answer session or appreciation from the listeners. 

Restructuring your cognitive thoughts in this case can involve focusing your attention on the whole balanced presentation experience, not just the negative aspects. However, this approach is done in a quite neutral and realistic way avoiding any overly positive replacement thoughts such as you may think that not everyone will like you but that’s alright and nothing to worry about. 


In this technique, you learn deeply about your mental health and what is in your mind that makes you avoid social settings. You explore what is hindering you from becoming an active member of the social gatherings and worsening your social anxiety. 

The therapist will reassure you that these symptoms are normal to have in social anxiety 

and can be treated with the right approach. You will get to know how therapy works to decrease your stress related to social settings and how specific strategies can work effectively to heal you. 

Attention Training

In this technique, you learn to move your focus back to other people. When you focus on others during your interactions, you closely monitor how others respond to what you have to say. And this approach will give you the realization pretty quickly that people don’t even notice the things that you feel so anxious about. 

Behavioral Experiments

The purpose of these experiments is to identify unhealthy safety behaviors that emerge because of being defensive and imbalanced in different social situations. These behavioral experiments also keep a check on negative self-beliefs and predictions of worst-case scenarios. 

For example, you have an invitation for a festive get-together but you worry that you may say something wrong there and you also have the fear that maybe nobody will talk to you over there. 

So the approach you have to take is to go to that get-together and talk to some people instead of avoiding conversations. Then your therapist will ask in the next session about your experience and whether what negative you were thinking before happened or not. 

Sometimes therapists also go for role-play exercises where you see your video and monitor how you do in social settings and can improve it accordingly.

Systematic Desensitization

In this approach, you face the social situations you are fearful of beginning with those that are expected to bring the least anxiety.

You won’t just jump into this but first, you will learn some relaxation techniques and if you feel any fear or worry, you will try these soothing techniques such as taking deep breaths and calming yourself. 

Within a few days, you can do many social interactions without the need for these relaxation techniques.

The Key Takeaway

CBT is an effective treatment for social anxiety and is already widely recognized.  So you don’t need to stay back, rather unlock your full potential and lead a more fulfilling and confident life after having this cognitive behavioral therapy. 

This therapy gives you the skills to go through social situations with ease. However, this does not mean that it will work for anyone as it is just one potential approach, and if you don’t see benefits with this therapy, you can always consult your therapist for other treatments for social anxiety. 

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