Social anxiety & social phobia

Our practice takes a particular interest in social anxiety and social phobia. Lissa has been involved in research trials investigating optimal therapies for social anxiety, and travels overseas to attend training by world leaders in social anxiety research and treatment. She has also been involved in a research collaboration with Macquarie University in which her PhD research was adapted to investigate self-related memory processes in social anxiety.

Our psychologists are keenly aware that social anxiety is a particularly personal kind of anxiety. It is often deeply connected to a person's sense of self, worth, confidence, and the quality of their relationships. Our approach is sensitive to these very important dimensions of social anxiety, and we are aware that social anxiety can manifest itself quite differently in different people. We work to understand what causes and maintains your particular experience of social anxiety, and to adapt therapy in a way that is uniquely relevant to you.

In terms of understanding social anxiety, almost everyone feels nervous now and then in social situations, such as when giving a speech or at job interviews. For many people this anxiety passes fairly quickly and causes little disruption or distress. But when social anxiety is persistent, intense and distressing, and/or causes people to avoid particular social activities, it is classified as a phobia.

People with social phobia tend to feel fearful meeting new people or when they might be observed or evaluated. They are often concerned that they will embarrass or humiliate themselves, or that others will think badly of them. They may fear a wide range of social interactions, or just specific situations, such as public speaking. Common fears for people with social phobia include:

"I won't know what to say / My mind will go blank"
"I won't be funny / interesting / knowledgeable enough"
"I'll say something wrong"
"Everyone will see how anxious I am and think I'm pathetic"
"They'll think I'm strange or stupid"
Social anxiety can be accompanied by strong physiological symptoms of anxiety such as trembling, blushing, sweating, a shaky voice, or a pounding heart. To keep control of themselves, people who experience strong social anxiety often try to avoid the situations that trigger their anxiety reactions. Situations commonly avoided by sufferers of social phobia include:

  • Parties
  • Public speaking
  • Contributing to meetings, discussions, or classes
  • Making conversation, either one on one or in groups
  • Meeting new people
  • Dating
  • Being assertive
  • Being out in public, e.g. at shopping centres or in crowds

Social avoidance can interfere with career progress, making friends, enjoying work and social life, having intimate relationships, and getting to know people. Therapy and treatment for social anxiety can help you to reduce your anxiety to comfortable levels, and to ultimately be more at ease with yourself in social situations. It can also help you to feel more relaxed about your relationships and interactions, and to have the confidence to take part in the activities that you once feared.

Phone: Sydney (02) 9331 0756
e-mail: [email protected]
Address: Suite 1014, 185 Elizabeth St Sydney