Background: Katharine Cecilia Peterson (Kate for short, brief presentation further down) has asked me (and others) to join her as a co-therapist for a research project looking into social phobia and the effects of cognitive therapy.
Disclaimer/personal experience: I can not claim expert clinical knowledge regarding social phobia, other than that I have experienced it on my own. To what degree I experienced social phobia is also a subjective matter. Also I am not an expert on cognitive therapy either, other than that of my own experience with such therapy, and it’s effect, regarding my tinnitus (reference to earlier blog posts relating to this matter: No cure for tinnitus , Life gets easier , Difference btw recruitment and tinnitus , Tinnitus cognitive therapy ) I was open minded about the cognitive therapy approach, and did all the training by myself, in addition I had three hour long sessions with a professional advisor.
She is a psychologist, and has been a valuable contact for me personally through the years, since I have met her on various occasions/courses, and she works at the place where I received psychological therapy: Nasjonalt Senter for Hørsel og Psykisk Helse . She played a small part (HUGE gratitude on my part!) for my mental wellbeing today, as she helped me get in touch with the right people when I needed it the most. Currently she is heading a research project I will write more about in the time to come (since I am a part of the project, obviously)
Five reasons why social phobia is so hard to get rid of:
Social phobia doesn’t only induce anxiety, it also goes with another emotional response: shame. This emotional reaction is in many cases stronger than the anxiety.
Social phobia is a form of anxiety, that compared to other forms of anxiety, in a greater degree triggers somatic responses such as sweating palms or tightening vocal chords.
In contradiction to for instance a panic disorder, the feared actually occurs: you DO become worse functioning in a social context.
The anxiety in itself becomes a secondary threat because many with social phobia lives with an assumption that the anxiety must be hidden at any cost in order to prevent a negative evaluation by others. The catastrophe is if others actually see your shakes, sweat or blush; a fear that increases the probability of that very thing happening!
As opposed to other forms of anxiety, the social phobic will not experience that the distress diminishes by shunning behavior. The anxiety will grow and be maintained by dreading the occasion in advance and by thorough evaluations of social events in hindsight.