Full disclosure, if you didn’t already know, I’m the community admin. So I am biased, naturally - I have my opinion about the solutions, my experience (as we all have), and I work for the Social Anxiety Institute.
This forum was created, funded, and is maintained by the Social Anxiety Institute with the original purpose of being a closed forum for the therapy series users. A decision was made early on to allow the forum to stay open to anyone, therapy series users or not. Thus, there are any types of conversations, within reason, as long as they’re not offensive/out-of-bounds. But, I tend to keep myself to the posts which relate to the therapy series and finding solutions, according to the therapy series - keep focused on the original purpose of the forum.
People come here with all sorts of opinions, and there are almost too many opinions anymore online - so much confusion really that adds to the mix of advice people give. There wasn’t a lot on social anxiety when I first tried to find help in high school, college… In the meantime books were being written about social phobia, so yes… the knowledge was out there, but finding it for someone who is confused and not knowing how to search for what they’re confused about is another issue many of us are familiar with. And, sure, I tried things even back then, suggested therapies/self-help, counselors, therapists, a well-known workbook that is still out and often cited as a great workbook for anxiety - none of that ever helped me with social anxiety. It all came together for me, the first clear understanding, etc, when I finally landed on Dr. Richards website, www.socialanxietyinstitute.org.
To make a long story short, I started with the audio therapy series that Dr. Richards created, a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral therapy program for social anxiety. Then I attended behavioral therapy groups here. Life happened. Years later, here we are.
In truth, there is no “long story short” for getting over this - well there is and there isn’t. The one I gave you above is true. But the longer version is how long I did, and we all should do, the therapy, and then the time I spent with the groups, ups and downs of life after, times I was more proactive, times I was less… Life happens again, and either one chooses to move forward with it and apply the therapy still, or perhaps one has natural setbacks. And other things work themselves out over time based on, I feel, if one has done and continues to allow the therapy to move you in the right direction. The longer story involves life, events, new things I learned, etc - but that’s life anyway. The shorter 1 to 2 year term where I was focused more intensively on the therapy - I guess you can separate that out if you want to make distinctions on the timeline.
So, I don’t have social anxiety anymore. I’m no superman, this doesn’t mean life just becomes a rainbow, but yes, I got over the hell of social anxiety as it’s defined. Every choice, every moment is not pushed down because of this thing that I don’t think much about anymore. I think about it more because it’s part of my job now.
In some ways I feel lucky there weren’t so many voices in the field yelling out solutions when I landed upon Dr. Richards. I still tried to look for alternatives, but there weren’t many, and I trusted what I read. So I went with that. It helped me. There could be other CBT programs, and I know there are some now. You could see a therapist and they understand that “CBT is the way to go here”, but then I tell people to ask those therapists - “okay, so what’s the program, in detail?” Sure, people may understand what CBT means in general, but what’s the day-to-day? How does one apply it? Do most therapists get that? Do even the other programs work? All the ones I tried before getting here did not work. Of course, I wouldn’t continue searching past this one anyway. If this didn’t work, maybe I’d have found another, or just stopped trying by that point.
Fundamentally, for me, the process needs to go “back” farther, starting at a more basic point than what any of my previous therapists ever understood. This is similar to when people say “just do it/ get over it/ it’ll be fine.” With that kind of assumption, if it’s a person who has never had social anxiety, I think that’s a natural assumption. Thus any program I’ve used, or book I read, or “top 3 things you can do to cure yourself” completely miss that. They never had a chance be effective, if we assume this is serious social anxiety, not just someone who says “hey, I’m a little shy sometimes” (which is every human in the world). Such a program would not know how to break it down so much to get you there. The jumps they try to make you perform are too high for the mind to believe at each step. People will certainly understand CBT, and KNOW that they shouldn’t be irrational, but that doesn’t get them to being rational. And plus, we already know it’s irrational. We don’t exactly need that enlightment anymore. That just makes you feel worse right? We’ve all been there. So perhaps that’s my opinion on the other noise out there about a book here or a CBT program there. They jump too high too fast. I don’t mean to say that we don’t gain from other books - we do, or other healthy practices - we do. I did such things during and after therapy, and they were helpful. But at the start, I answer on these forums from the perspective of - this is a person with social anxiety disorder. Where should they start NOW.
So, for me, I did a CBT program and it happened to be this one. I’m glad it was. If you find another that works for you, it’s the daily consistent habit of this repitition and reinforcement of rational thoughts that will get you there. That combined with slowly applying it to your life and moving it more and more out into behaviors, and then back to reinforcing the cognitive part again. If you’re doing that, sounds good, man. Seems like it could be a way for you to go.
I’m sure you can read my other responses/posts on here to get a sense of my experience, or read other people’s too. A lot of people here in my same shoes. A lot making the choice to change their lives now, with the usual good and bad days that come from that.
I have noticed that you, too, like many of us with social anxiety, are very empathetic and supportive - as you have posted on another thread, giving another community member rational feedback - the realization that there is hope and a way forward. Many of us allow this for others, and are very supportive here, and we are completely horrible to ourselves. This is similar to “Seeing Things From a Different Perspective” in Session 22 of Dr. Richards therapy series. This idea is not just here, it pops up at different points in the therapy, and it’s not necessarily a concept we all haven’t used or know that we already do. Still very useful. We should be treating ourselves as we would, and do, others. You’re giving that person rational feedback, supporting them, telling them a healthy perspective that is very real and rational. It helps us all to get that feedback, to break up our irrational thoughts. To help ourselves, we might use this exercise of taking ourselves out of the picture and thinking what we would say or do or suggest or know to be true for other people, and then apply it to ourselves. But, to be able to believe and do such an exercise with any real benefits, lasting benefits anyway, we also have to gradually get our minds up to that place - the process of therapy. Doesn’t matter that we just know these things… we have to start believing them. Practicing, reinforcing.
So, I’ve made a short story very long, as I often do here. What’s true for what you told that other community member is true for you. In my opinion, it’s not worth settling for social anxiety for the rest of your life. It’s scary at first to change this, but it’s completely possible for each person here to do so, in their own way, on their own timeline.