As I said in my last post, I’m not sure if I can overcome my anxiety with therapy. I say this but at the same time, I do believe that if I had enough patience, dedication and time, I probably could come to terms with it better than I do now. Yes, my fears are real fears and not completely illogical, but at the same time, they are somewhat overblown. Could I be a bit more rational about social interactions? Sure. Could I gain some good from therapy? Yes, I think so. I just think that I’ve yet to meet a therapist who actually knows a lot about the topic or has had success treating other anxiety patients like me.
While doing a bit of research on the topic, I found this great site: The Anxiety Network. They give some positive tips and they basically say that facing your fears has to be your idea and it has to be gentle and slow and that first they’d bolster you with coping strategies. This site makes the most sense out of any that I’ve found online or elsewhere including my previous therapy experiences. I think if I met a therapist who had a very straight-forward, well plotted out path toward lessened anxiety, I’d have done better with this. I also like the idea of group therapy.
Here’s what The Anxiety Network has to say:
“2. I’ve heard that cognitive-behavioral therapy is stressful. Is this true?
Although cognitive-behavioral therapy is an active, focused treatment, it can never be deliberately stressful or pressuring in nature or it will not work. Instead, cognitive-behavioral treatment is gentle, challenging, and works by gently moving up one step at a time (“hierarchically”).
3. I was told I should “force” myself into difficult anxiety-producing situations and I would get over my social anxiety.
The advice to “flood” yourself with high anxiety so that you will get better does NOT work for people with social anxiety. The attempt to perform an activity that is highly anxiety-arousing almost guarantees failure. This, in turn, leads to further embarrassment, humiliation, and depression. Do not force yourself into high anxiety producing situations. This will only make your social anxiety worse.
4. If forcing myself into social situations doesn’t work, how will I ever get better?
It is important to start slowly and gradually and work up gently to the place you’d like to be. We always use cognitive (re-thinking) methods and strategies, first to provide the person with a foundation of new thinking skills and anti-anxiety strategies and second to”sink” these new rational thoughts down deeply into the brain so that they become a habit or an automatic behavior. We feel therapy is much more successful if these cognitive strategies are learned and deeply understood by the brain first. Then, when a person feels less social anxiety and more confident, they decide to move into the social anxiety therapy group where changes in behaviors are worked on more directly. However, we make it a rule that no one is ever forced, challenged, or urged to do anything they don’t feel like doing in the group. The motivation and impetus must come directly from the person with social anxiety. We have found this approach to group therapy to be most effective. A group full of motivated people makes a lot of progress against social anxiety.”
So there is hope. I don’t want anyone to come away from my blog thinking that there’s no hope. There is and I certainly don’t think that meds are the complete answer. They’re an easy answer but they don’t actually solve the problem. So therapy might not be easy, but it could be effective. For me though, I am just not at the right point in my life where I have the time and patience to devote to my anxiety. Perhaps someday I will, but right now I want to focus more on my career which includes taking classes, gaining experience and applying for new jobs. Maybe someday I’ll be ready to really tackle my anxiety and I’ll be able to live med-free.
Further Helpful Reading: Get out of your Mind and into your Life