Efficacy of CBT Treatment for Social Anxiety

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you will learn the definition of CBT and social anxiety. You will learn how CBT helps individuals with social anxiety. You will also learn how effective CBT has been shown to treat social anxiety disorder.

What Is CBT?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most popular therapeutic approaches that psychologists and mental health therapists use in treating people. It can be used to help treat a number of disorders, such as depression and anxiety. CBT is a treatment approach that helps people change their negative and problematic ways of thinking, as well as change bad behaviors or habits. Our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are all interconnected and affect one another. CBT works to explore this relationship and to identify and rectify problematic emotions at the root.

Individuals with negative thinking patterns tend to have a distorted or pessimistic view of themselves, others, the world, and the future. This can affect their behavior negatively, which can in turn negatively impact their personal, social and professional lives.

For example, Mary believes that nobody can be trusted. When she has kids, she is overly protective. When her kids grow up to be teenagers, she doesn't allow them the healthy freedoms that teens need to grow and thrive, because she is scared of the outside world. This causes tension and conflict in her relationship with her kids-- all because of her distorted thoughts and generalizations about others and the world around her.

It is clear from the story about Mary how thoughts can lead to destructive behaviors. This is why CBT is so popular and helpful in therapy to treat mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Many people need to replace their negative thoughts with more positive ones to live happier and more fulfilled lives.

CBT and Social Anxiety

Tim avoided going to parties because he feared that when he spoke to people, they were judging him. He felt like he was unlikeable and didn't have anything interesting to say. If Tim had to speak to someone, he would often sweat in nervousness. Tim is one of about 15 million people who suffer from social anxiety in the United States.

Social anxiety becomes a disorder when a person fears and avoids situations where they have to perform. They fear that they are always being analyzed by others. They fear that they will somehow embarrass themselves in one way or another. It's estimated that about 7% of the world is presently experiencing some form of social anxiety.

Social anxiety is the third most prevalent psychological problem in the United States.
Socially anxious girl

Social anxiety has a lot to do with negative thinking patterns. Let's look at some of the following thinking patterns, and you can see how someone may feel anxious if they actually believed these thoughts:

'I'm unlikeable.'

'He's only talking to me because he's trying to be nice.'

'She thinks I'm ugly.'

'I sound so stupid.'

Therapists will work with individuals with the above thoughts in challenging their introspection. Through CBT, individuals can learn why they have these negative thoughts and work on how to replace them with more positive thoughts. These positive thoughts will then hopefully translate to a person being able to comfortably have a conversation with others in social situations.

CBT also helps with social anxiety by gradually exposing the individual to the feared stimulus (also called in vivo exposure). For example, Cindy is afraid of speaking in front of others at a work conference. Cindy's therapist first has Cindy make a speech to her. Then she asks Cindy to speak in front of two people, then 5, until Cindy is comfortable giving a speech in her 10-person conference room.

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