Dealing With Social Anxiety With Therapy

Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown

Social anxiety is a real anxiety disorder that can require treatment in order to live a normal life. Without treatment, a social anxiety disorder can keep people from any kind of social situation, including work, school, friendships, and even leaving their home. One of the best treatment options for social anxiety is therapy. Seeking out help in the form of treatment can be nerve-wracking for some, but it’s also great for working through fear.


If you are thinking about therapy, but are hesitant to reach out for assistance, knowing what you might expect in social anxiety therapy can help you to take the first step. Then, you might find yourself comfortable in social situations of all kinds. Eventually, social anxiety can be a part of your past. Your future can be full of conversation, interaction, and joy. Therapy is often the go-to for those that seek a future that looks like this.

Social Anxiety Disorder Therapy

When you have social anxiety, you may find yourself wondering how therapy might help. What do you do in therapy? What do you seek to accomplish? Are you looking to put a name to your anxiety? Do you want a mental health doctor to prescribe your medication so that you can feel better? Whatever it is that has you looking into social anxiety therapy, understanding the ins and outs may help you to determine if it is the best route for you. Perhaps you have been feeling anxious in social situations and are hesitant to try social anxiety therapy. Answering the questions running through your mind might give you the peace to seek further help in the form of therapy.

Therapy, in many forms, can help people with a social anxiety disorder and various other mental health issues. Understanding how it works, what goals you might work towards, and what to expect is often best for those with anxiety. The more you understand beforehand, the more comfortable you will feel going into therapy for the first session. Social anxiety disorder doesn’t have to control your life. Define your social anxiety and seek the best treatment for you.

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is more than simply being shy with strangers or getting nervous in large crowds. It’s more than stage fright or being a little uncomfortable when you’re meeting someone new. Although people with social anxiety disorder likely feel those things, this condition is more complicated. For the most part, people with social anxiety disorder feel as though they are constantly being judged in social situations. This makes them feel nervous, self-conscious, and sometimes severe anxiety in social situations or in the presence of other people.

Many individuals that experience social anxiety, to such an extent, fear that they are being judged for being anxious – a feeling that leads many with this disorder to remain in their homes as much as possible. People with a social anxiety disorder might be unable to hold a job, attend classes, or go to the movies. It can be present in children, but it much more common in teens and adults. The anxiety associated with social anxiety disorder can manifest in physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, or panic attacks. If you have been experiencing these feelings and/ or physical symptoms, seeking help often starts with going to therapy for social anxiety.


How Does Social Anxiety Therapy Work?

People with social anxiety are often treated with a therapy known as cognitive behavior therapy, commonly referred to as CBT. Breakdown the term cognitive behavior therapy, and you’ll find that it’s likely the best therapy option for most people with social anxiety. Cognitive means how someone perceives something or their level of awareness. When that is combined with the way you behave or act, it can be assumed that cognitive behavior means being aware of your actions and the way you think. That’s exactly what CBT does: makes a person more aware of how they think so that their behavior can change.

How does a therapist go about helping patients to achieve this? This kind of therapy is not one in which the patient talks about anything and everything. Instead, the mental health professional helps the patient to draw out their usual negative thoughts so that they can be altered. They seek to help the individual struggling with social anxiety by getting them to focus on the now and move on from their past.

Counselors and therapists also help patients develop social skills so that they have the confidence to enter into a social situation. This might consist of role-playing a social situation or acting out a scene and even doing homework between sessions. Some therapists have people attend group therapy sessions when they feel they are ready to be around others that experience the same feelings of anxiety. For most patients, working through social anxiety takes no more than three to four months.

What Is the Goal Of Therapy For Social Anxiety?

Does therapy cure social anxiety disorders or simply make managing them easier? The ultimate goal is to eliminate the symptoms and struggles associated with anxiety. While many patients completely rid themselves of symptoms after a few months of therapy, a lot of them experience relief from their anxious mind in social situations after just a couple of sessions.

Therapists often ask that patients set goals for themselves. These goals might be to attend a social situation, such as a holiday party, or to reconnect with old friends. These goals are great for those suffering from a social anxiety disorder because they act as stepping stones to the finish line. When treatment has been completed, and goals are achieved on a massive scale, patients can look back and see all that they have accomplished to rid themselves of their anxious thoughts.


What Other Treatments Work To Heal Social Anxiety?

When social anxiety keeps you from social situations, work, school, or even family gatherings, you might wonder if other treatments can help you through the hard times. Although therapy is often the most recommended, a mental healthcare professional can help you to determine if other treatment options are right for you. Aside from therapy, the most common treatment for people with a social anxiety disorder is medication.

Prescribed medications for social anxiety disorder typically include two types: SSRIs and SNRIs. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and SNRIs, an acronym for selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, are types of antidepressants that cannot be purchased over the counter. These drugs attack symptoms of anxiety and not the cause. Because of this, people with social anxiety may experience the return of the symptoms when medication is no longer taken.

If you and your doctor feel as though medication is the right step for you, it is important that you take antidepressants as directed. Stopping an antidepressant medication too quickly can cause anxiety to worsen or cause severe side effects. Consulting a medical health professional before making any changes in your medication is imperative.

How Can I Find A Good Therapist For Social Anxiety Disorder?

Now that you are aware of the purpose of therapy and how social anxiety can be treated, you may be wondering how you might find a therapist to work with. There are a number of ways to find a therapist. With the modern era of technology, you can find a local or online therapist or counselor in a matter of minutes. Using online reviews is a good idea for finding a professional that listens to the needs of their patients. If you have family or close friends that might see a counselor, try to ask them for a recommendation. Sometimes your family doctor will know a good person or office to contact.

Perhaps the easiest and fastest way to start sessions is by getting in touch with an online counselor. Sessions can often be done via email, instant messaging, telephone, or video chat. With a variety of options available, people with social anxiety can start sessions in a way that they are most comfortable with.

Is Therapy For Me?

Is therapy really for you? If you have read through to this point and are still wondering if this is the best option, there is little harm in contacting a therapist or counselor. One session might help you to get a better grasp of how you might feel about attending sessions weekly. Attending one session does not mean that you have to come back. However, taking the step to go to the first session often gives you a clear impression of whether or not you should continue.


Those with social anxiety disorders can genuinely benefit from therapy. Many that have social anxiety have suffered for months and have been unable to find relief. Therapy aims to help people that have social anxiety in this way. By taking the chance to improve your mental state, you can get back to life and social situations as normal.

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