A Personal Note to People with Social Anxiety

-- from Dr. Thomas A. Richards:

As a psychologist and director of the Social Anxiety Institute, I feel privileged because I get to see people making progress against social anxiety every day of the week. 

Research indicates that the most effective therapy for social anxiety disorder is called cognitive-behavioral therapy. All this means is that we learn new rational ways to deal with and eradicate our anxiety, and we work together in a group with other social anxiety people so that our "behavior" is no longer controlled by our anxieties. 

CBT is not difficult, but it does involve getting used to the new methods and techniques, and practicing to reinforce them.  This is all that "cognitive" means: learning.  As you learn appropriate methods and strategies to reduce anxiety, the brain's neural pathways or associations change.  Your practicing, in turn, causes permanent changes in the way your brain perceives things and reacts.  

The person who is determined to overcome social anxiety chooses to keep learning, using cognitive (rational) therapy, even when life events make it difficult for them.  This type of persistence guarantees that a person will get better.

When you go through comprehensive cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is what should be done in any treatment program, your social anxiety will begin to diminish, and will gradually allow you to begin leading a life free from undue anxiety, avoidance, and restrictions. 

There is no way for you to fail in this process. 

The therapy itself is not difficult…the only thing required is that you set aside thirty uninterrupted minutes a day to do it.  If you are persistent and consistent in learning these new methods and strategies, and gradually putting them into place in your life, the only possible way you can fail is if you give up. 

Luckily, I can tell you that most people do not make this decision.

Learning involves repetition, reinforcement, and sticking to our new rational thinking methods.  There is no magic here.  It is purely common-sense material.  This material, like any other new material in life, must be "practiced" into the brain, much like learning a musical instrument must be practiced before we become proficient.

If we want to overcome social anxiety, we need to practice new rational thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and actions.  If we do this, our brain does change.  Thankfully, this is a permanent change, and we can go on to live the kind of life we desire.

I would urge everyone to get started as soon as possible with cognitive therapy to overcome social anxiety.  It can and does change lives.

Once you get started, you will see there is more than just light at the end of the tunnel. 


--Thomas A. Richards, Ph.D.
Psychologist/Director, Social Anxiety Institute