Social Anxiety

Social anxiety, which is also called social phobia, is one of the most common psychological problems in the United States today. The essential feature of social anxiety is fear of negative evaluation by others in social or performance situations. Such situations range from making conversation or arranging a date with someone, to calling directory assistance or saying your name out loud to a receptionist. Fear of public speaking is one of the most common types of social anxiety.

Social anxiety usually first develops in childhood. The peak ages for its development are between 14 and 16. Social anxiety generally does not disappear on its own. People with social anxiety may completely avoid some or all of the situations which bother them, or they may endure them with great distress.

Social anxiety is a treatable condition. There is good evidence that a specialized type of treatment--cognitive-behavior therapy (also called cognitive therapy)--is effective in treating social anxiety and has good long-term results. There is also good evidence that medication, specifically anti-anxiety drugs or the class of drugs called selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help. Many people have been helped by a combination of drug treatment and cognitive-behavior therapy.

At the Center for Multimodal Treatment we teach people with social anxiety to react differently to the situations that trigger their anxiety symptoms. We help them confront and evaluate the negative thoughts they have about social situations and about being judged by others. We teach them to elicit a relaxation response in order to combat the tension they usually feel in social situations. We have people rehearse and practice handling the situations they fear in a gradual, controlled way.

In some cases, we may also provide coaching to help people develop better social skills, or use specialized techniques to help them deal with past trauma.

What does treatment at the Center for Multimodal Treatment involve?

Sessions at the center are generally 50 minutes long and are held once a week. The first step will be to meet with a counselor and complete an assessment of your problems in order to develop a treatment plan specifically tailored to your needs.

Once treatment begins, you and your counselor will work as a team. Treatment is most effective when you are an active participant. Your counselor can provide expertise on treatment; you are in the best position to provide expertise on yourself. Your counselor will ask you to be as honest as possible and to follow through with some activities at home, such as practicing relaxation or keeping track of thoughts and emotions. We will ask you to give this an honest effort, and to be open with us about how you are feeling. This will allow us to work effectively and to change course as needed.

You and your counselor will periodically assess your progress and will decide together when treatment should end.

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