Social phobia is a more common anxiety disorder than we can ever imagine , although the intensity in which it appears is usually varied. There are cases in which people manage to conceal the discomfort it causes them, while in the most intense cases the limitation becomes very evident.
In this article we are going to review some effective ways on how to help a person with social phobia in support of psychotherapy assistance, so that he/she gradually overcomes irrational fear (phobia) towards other people, especially when dealing with large groups.
What is social phobia?
To know how to help a person with social phobia, we must first understand what this disorder is. Social phobia is the irrational and intense fear that people feel when faced with any situation related to social contact ; the feeling of discomfort becomes more intense in direct relation to the number of people with whom one must interact and the degree of ignorance of these people.
As vimoss previouslym some people are able to conceal this fear, but that does not stop it from significantly affecting the subject’s quality of life. This only indicates that the intensity of the social phobia is less than in other cases, where it is not possible to conceal the distress represented by the fact of having to interact with others.
It is important to clarify the difference between social phobia disorder and shyness, because superficially they may seem to be the same thing. Basically, the difference lies in the intensity of the distress and in people’s thinking style. Shyness is nothing more than an occasional personality characteristic . That is, the triggers of shyness are expressed in specific circumstances in which it is necessary to interact with others in person and in real time.
Social phobia, on the other hand, is very intense and deeply irrational, that is, there is no logical trigger that generates the fear that the subject feels towards the interaction with other people; it is a picture of anxiety focused on interpersonal interactions, which is constantly and intensely manifested in the subject’s day-to-day life , damaging his quality of life even when no one is around (for example, avoiding going out to buy so as not to have to talk to the store owner).
How to help those with social phobia?
Now we are going to see a list of advice focused on providing accompaniment and help to those who suffer from social phobia.
1. Accompany to therapy
For the adequate treatment of phobias it is best to accompany the person to therapy with psychologists . The behavioural professional will be able to adequately evaluate the subject and determine the possible causes of the social phobia.
It is important to keep in mind that each patient is unique, and we cannot pretend to rely exactly on the reality of some cases to help others. That’s why the most advisable thing is to attend therapy, to have somehow a clearer picture. The advice we will see is of help and support to people who are going to therapy for their social phobia problems, but this first step is essential, and no non professional accompaniment can replace it.
2. Help rethink thoughts
The second step to stop feeling distress in social situations is to encourage the person to adopt other thoughts associated with interaction with others. Social phobia is intrinsically related to a catastrophic (anxious) thinking style, in which one imagines that everything will go very wrong if one communicates with others .
It is necessary to make the subject see that contact with other people does not have to end badly, but that it can even be a rewarding experience for all parties involved, as long as it is an interaction within the social norms of respect.
3. Providing social tools
Social skills can be learned, and in cases of social phobia it is necessary to implement a didactic teaching method through which subjects can clearly understand how socialization works not only from theory, but also from practice. For this purpose, it is possible to accompany those who present social phobia and create situations in which they can relate to people they know more or less , so that this task does not become too difficult. However, always with the consent of the person suffering from this anxiety disorder.
4. Help set goals
Overcoming social phobia is a gradual process, where the person will gradually overcome some goals. This will not only serve to help you gain confidence and security, but will also give you practice and implicit knowledge about how a normal conversation develops.
Of course, these goals should be oriented towards sociability with other people, and should be concrete and short-term , so that they have the capacity to motivate. For example, a good idea is to set an initial goal of starting a daily conversation for one week, so that as the days go by this behaviour becomes normal. In any case, this should always be done in coordination with the psychologist who conducts the psychotherapy sessions, so that both processes (inside and outside the office) go at the same pace.
5. Exposure to crowded environments
An effective way to combat any type of phobia is to make controlled exposures to that which generates the discomfort . In the case of social phobia, the procedure is to accompany the person to social events where he or she has to experience how other people speak in public and interact with each other. Again, this should be discussed first with the person conducting the psychotherapy sessions.
6. Avoid rushing the results
Each person has his or her own rhythm of evolution, and it is not positive to try to accelerate people’s progress, especially in cases of anxiety or social phobia. If the person notices that there is pressure from us to see immediate results, he or she will start to feel more anxious about it and will want to stop committing to therapy and our approach to psychological support to help him or her.
- Bravo, M. A. and Padrós, F. (2013). Explanatory models of social phobia: A cognitive-behavioral approach. Uaricha, 11(24), 134-147.
- Hermans, D. Vantseenwegen, D. and Craske, M. G. (2008). Fears and phobias: Debates, future research and clinical implications. In M. G. Craske, D. Hermans and Vansteenwegen (Eds.), Fears and phobias: from basic processes to clinical implications (pp. 257-264). Mexico: Manual Moderno.