An estimated 15 million Americans live with social anxiety. If you’re one of them, you know about the challenges it presents. You may feel afraid of interacting with others, expecting to be judged or disliked. You would love to have more friends, but thinking about meeting people makes you feel panicked and nervous.
Social anxiety is uncomfortable, and it’s not something you have to live with.
Therapy is a great way to conquer the condition. A specific type of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) may be especially effective.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is more than just being shy. It can have crippling effects on your interactions with other people. Some people with social anxiety become isolated, avoiding some or all situations where other people are present.
Symptoms of social anxiety include the following:
• Fear of rejection
• Fear of authority figures
• Avoidance of new social situations
• Physical symptoms like nausea and sweating
• Expectation of being disliked
• Tendency to ruminate over social encounters after the fact
What is EMDR?
EMDR is a form of therapy that helps you work through phobias or traumas under the guidance of a therapist.
You focus on a distressing image or memory while the therapist directs you to do one or more of the following:
• Track an object side to side with your eyes
• Listen to sounds alternating over headphones
• Hold sensors that vibrate in alternate hands.
These sequences have been proven to alter how your brain processes disturbing thoughts or memories.
How Can EMDR Help Social Anxiety?
Negative assumptions are an underlying factor in many cases of social anxiety.
Do you believe that people will dislike you, embarrass you, or judge you harshly?
Disturbing mental images of what could happen drive social anxiety. Even though these events haven’t actually happened, they still create powerful mental motivation to stay away from people.
EMDR helps because its aim is to replace negative feedback loops with more positive ones. Many of the thoughts that cause your social anxiety are based on things you tell yourself over and over. You can find freedom when you learn how to break these associations.
How Does EMDR Work with Other Social Anxiety Treatments?
Social anxiety doesn’t generally go away on its own without help. Most people find that they need a variety of treatments. EMDR can help ease social anxiety in combination with other therapies.
Although many people see EMDR as an alternative to traditional talk therapy, you may find that they work well together. EMDR allows you the peace of mind and positivity to relax and open up to a therapist, encouraging you to build a supportive therapeutic relationship.
As a result, verbal sharing may give you more courage to reach out to other people. A therapist can also help you to improve your communication patterns, which also benefit your social encounters.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is another form of treatment, combined with EMDR, that may help you consciously change your thought processes. Again, EMDR breaks the cycle of negative association. From there, your therapist can help you recognize your damaging thought patterns. Then, you can learn how to replace them with different thoughts.
Finally, many people with social anxiety also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Your therapist may end up suggesting a combination of EMDR and medication to address your needs. In some cases, antidepressant medication or anti-anxiety medication may be helpful. It is, however, very possible to resolve most cases of social anxiety and Generalized Anxiety Disorder without any medication at all, and it is important for you to make your needs and wants known.
Few people will pursue just one type of treatment. It’s important to trust your therapist—and communicate honestly if you don’t think the current treatments are working. Although social anxiety can be overwhelming, you can experience relief with the support of a knowledgeable therapist.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to address your social anxiety issues and want to bring about big change in a short amount of time, I would like to help. Please get in touch with me via voicemail or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your social and relationship goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT