Social Anxiety Therapy in Madison, WI

Most of us feel shy and awkward at times, especially in social settings where we don’t know a lot of people. But we muddle through and forget about it the minute we leave the situation, or we find a way to relax into it. For some, however, it isn’t so easy. Those with social anxiety have an intense fear of looking bad, saying or doing something dumb, making a mistake, or appearing awkward in public. The fear of such things occurring can become so overwhelming, it feels like a better option to avoid such situations altogether.  Speaking in public, eating or drinking around others, being the center of attention, asking questions, any kind of performance, and even talking on the phone or using public restrooms can become part of the feared activities. Anxiety about such things can escalate to the level of a panic attack, in anticipation or in the situation itself. This, in turn, reinforces the desire to simply avoid people altogether.

Rooted in anxiety, with an extra helping of shame, social anxiety can have devastating effects, causing trouble in relationships, education, career advancement, and restricting freedom of movement to such a degree that severe depression may develop. 

Social anxiety first occurs in infancy, and is a normal and useful emotion for effective social functioning and development within society. It continues through childhood to different degrees, likely peaking in adolescence, when social acceptance is vital to the developmental demands of that age. In the normal course of development, it drops out in adulthood.

Regardless of the age, a tremendous fear in social anxiety is being criticized by others. What we neglect to notice is the most judgmental among us, the one most likely to point out our flaws and faults, to ridicule and lambast, is ourselves. Most other people are far too concerned about their own insecurities to care much one way or the other about how you behave.

By unpacking the fears and tracing them to their obsolete roots or origins in distorted thinking, our therapists can guide you through a careful program of increased risk-taking with safety plans and systems built-in. Step by step, we can ease you back into the public arena, knowing you are flawed and likely to bumble, but that it is still OK. Developing forgiveness for yourself, and tolerance for your imperfections, will make you a more sympathetic and appealing person, with more room to grow and develop in your life.