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Trying Group Therapy When You Have Social Anxiety

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), experiencing anxiety occasionally is a normal part of life. You may experience a spike in anxiety during tests or when you make big life decisions like moving to a new state or country. Anxiety is a part of your fight or flight response and, in small doses, can help you stay alert, recognize risk, and motivate you to tackle problems. However, having an anxiety disorder can impair your daily life, work and/or school performance, and relationships. Yet, trying group therapy for anxiety disorders like social anxiety can help you address those overwhelming worries and fears.

At The Guest House, we believe in taking an individualized approach to treatment to support your long-term recovery. Your experiences with anxiety are unique to you, so you deserve a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs. We specialize in providing a safe and non-judgmental healing space where you can explore different therapeutic modalities to find the right treatment for you. Trying group therapy along with other therapeutic modalities can give you the tools you need to manage your symptoms. In addition, the skills learned in group therapy can help you dismantle self-defeating thoughts and behaviors as you connect with peers.

Furthermore, exploring a variety of therapies allows us to help you address your specific anxiety disorder and symptoms. There are several different anxiety disorders and related disorders. These include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Specific phobia
  • Social anxiety disorder

While each type of anxiety has similarities and some overlapping symptoms, the source of the anxiety is different. Difficulties related to social interaction are most often present in social anxiety disorder. Like many mental health disorders, there are misconceptions about social anxiety disorder that create barriers to seeking support and treatment. Misunderstandings about social anxiety disorder have led people to associate the disorder with shyness.

While there are similarities, shyness is quite different from social anxiety disorder. Shyness, as the American Psychological Association (APA) notes, is associated with feeling awkward, worried, or tense in social situations that are unfamiliar. You may feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, or nervous. However, shyness is not a debilitating condition as your feelings of shyness often disappear and you become more comfortable as you get to know the unfamiliar person or place. Therefore, increasing your knowledge of social anxiety disorder can help you understand how it impacts your life. With more awareness and understanding of your social anxiety disorder, you can start building the tools you need to function well in your daily life.

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

As stated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), social anxiety disorder is a common anxiety disorder that creates feelings of anxiety and fear in specific types of situations. Social anxiety typically leaves you feeling anxious or fearful of being scrutinized, evaluated, or judged by others in different social settings. Many people worry about being judged in different situations, like giving a presentation at work or school. However, social anxiety disorder impairs your ability to engage in your daily life or pursue life goals.

Listed below are some of the ways social anxiety disorder can make doing everyday things difficult:

  • Speaking in public and or group settings
  • Meeting and talking to new people
  • Going on dates
  • Making eye contact
  • Asking and answering questions in class
  • Going to job interviews
  • Talking to cashiers and waiters
  • Using public restrooms
  • Making and answering phone calls
  • Eating and drinking in front of others
  • Going to crowded public or social gathers
    • Parities
    • Restaurants
    • Grocery stores
    • Department stores
  • Socializing with peers and friends

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder make everyday things and socialization challenging. It feels impossible to participate in life when you are concerned about being humiliated, judged, and or rejected by others. Unlike shyness or occasional bouts of anxiety, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder are so intense that it overwhelms you. Social anxiety makes you feel like you are not in control of your body or actions as it increases avoidance behaviors. Thus, knowing the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can help you recognize how the disorder manifests in your mind and body.

Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

Although there are commonalities, everyone experiences different types and levels of severity for social anxiety symptoms. As NIMH notes, some people do not experience social anxiety in all social situations. Some people may only experience social anxiety in performance settings. Thus, rather than feeling anxious about socializing with others, you may find it more difficult to:

  • Give a speech
  • Compete in sports
  • Sing on stage
  • Play a musical instrument on stage

Many people may experience stage fright, but they are still able to perform these tasks. Performance-based social anxiety, on the other hand, can have a profound impact on your ability to function in different professional and academic settings and even prevent you from pursuing things that are meaningful to you. Moreover, different levels of symptom severity mean that some people may not have difficulties making eye contact or eating in front of others. However, regardless of the severity level of your symptoms, social anxiety can impede many different areas of your life.

Listed below are some of the common signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomachaches
  • Extreme nervousness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating and trembling
  • Blushing
  • Anxiety attack
  • Not making eye contact when talking to others
  • Stiff body posture in social situations
  • Speaking with an extremely soft voice
  • Difficulty raising your voice or getting words out
  • Feeling like your mind goes blank when you try to talk to people
  • Difficulty talking to people even when you want to
  • Avoiding crowded or public places and events
  • Racing thoughts
  • Rumination
  • Using technology to avoid face-to-face interactions
  • Feeling embarrassed or awkward being around people
  • Anticipatory anxiety about social interactions and performance situations
  • Feeling self-consciousness or fear that people will view you negatively or reject you
  • Fearing being around new people, especially strangers

Whether your symptoms are mild, moderate, or extreme, social anxiety can be detrimental to your life. When you are overwhelmed by your social anxiety symptoms, it can disrupt your daily life and prevent you from pursuing your life goals.

Impact of Social Anxiety on Your Life

According to “Social Anxiety Disorder” from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), social anxiety leads to significant anxiety and stress that wreaks havoc on your life. Some of the ways social anxiety disorder can impede your well-being and life satisfaction include:

  • Not pursuing job opportunities because you think you are not good enough
  • Avoid pursuing job opportunities or quitting jobs that require frequent interactions
  • Declining opportunities to hang out with friends or new people
  • Struggling to participate or meet work and or school obligations
    • Decreases work and school performance
  • Difficulties forming professional relationships with co-workers
  • Lacking friendships and romantic relationships
  • Experiencing an increased risk for other mental health disorders
    • Depression
  • Having low self-esteem and experiencing increasing loneliness
  • Experiencing feelings of shame and powerlessness

When left unaddressed, the difficulties of social anxiety disorder present in your life can increase your psychological distress. Meanwhile, profound mental and emotional distress can overwhelm you and lead to self-defeating behaviors like substance misuse. You may engage in substance misuse to alleviate your symptoms and function in social situations. Therefore, seeking support for social anxiety disorder can help you manage your symptoms for your long-term well-being. While it may sound counterintuitive, trying group therapy can be beneficial to addressing and working through the roots of your social anxiety disorder.

Trying Group Therapy for Your Mental Well-Being

When people think of therapy, individual and group therapy are the common images that appear in television and film. There are a variety of therapies that can support your long-term healing. However, your recovery can be more effective when you incorporate a diverse array of therapies and modalities into your treatment plan. Trying group therapy can be a valuable therapeutic tool in addressing your specific needs for healing.

Yet, people are often hesitant about trying group therapy because many people fear being judged or sharing intimate details about their lives, thoughts, and feelings. Feeling hesitant or intimidated about trying group therapy is understandable, but group therapy can have a lot of rewarding benefits to support your mental well-being. Moreover, your clinician has your best interest, safety, and privacy in mind. With the support and guidance of your clinician, group therapy is a safe setting where everyone is there to learn, grow, and heal.

Group therapy can be an important support network and provide insight into similar lived experiences. The process of group therapy can look different based on your and your fellow group members’ specific experiences and needs. Still, there are some common features that you can expect to see and experience in a group therapy session, including the following:

  • Typically run by one or more clinicians with specialized training
  • Manages small to medium-sized groups
  • Sessions are generally two hours or less
  • Clinicians focus on teaching strategies for specific issues
  • Peers talk about their experiences and current challenges
    • Give each other ideas on how to approach different challenges
  • Group members share similar experiences and challenges
  • Offers both open and closed groups
    • Open sessions allow new members to join at any time
    • Closed sessions have a set group of people who join at the same time
  • Groups are often designed to address your and your peer’s specific needs

Trying group therapy goes beyond sitting in a circle with strangers. When you integrate group therapy into your treatment plan, your clinician will help you find the right group that fits your specific needs. Therefore, trying group therapy means you are not stuck in a group that focuses on an issue that does not apply to your experiences or challenges. Whether you are looking for support for addiction, anger management, or a specific mental health disorder, there is a group for you.

Finding the Right Group: Trying Group Therapy in Different Forms

In the publication Group Therapy, authors Akshay Malhotra and Jeff Baker note that group therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions. When you look into trying group therapy, you may find specific groups for depression, anxiety, PTSD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anger management. Listed below are some of the different types of group therapy available to support your well-being:

  • Support groups:
    • Effective additional support tools after treatment have already started
    • Teaches you to maintain new healthy behaviors
    • Reinforces new healthy belief systems and thinking patterns
    • Empowers you to manage symptoms in day-to-day life
  • Psychoeducational groups:
    • Provides education on your diagnosis
    • Increases understanding of unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns
    • Teaches you how to avoid maladaptive thinking and behavior patterns
    • Encourages adaptive changes to thinking and behavior patterns
  • Cognitive-behavioral groups:
    • Focuses on changing negative learned behavior patterns
    • Changes your beliefs and perceptions about yourself
    • Shifts your thinking patterns from negative to positive
    • Focuses on building healthy beliefs, coping skills, thoughts, and behaviors
  • Skill development groups:
    • Supports building life skills to help you function in your daily life
    • Focuses on teaching coping strategies, emotional control, and socialization techniques
  • Family support groups:
    • Gives families a space to express their thoughts and feelings
    • Educates loved ones on your diagnosis
    • Increases understanding of their role in treatment and recovery
  • Gender-specific groups:
    • Increases feelings of safety, confidence, and self-acceptance
    • Improves group cohesion and support
  • Interpersonal groups:
    • Focuses on what healthy interpersonal relationships and social interactions look like
    • Addresses how many mutually supportive relationships you have
    • Examines how healthy and unhealthy relationships impact your mental health

There are a diverse number of group therapies you can explore to support your mental well-being. Moreover, different types of group therapy can be utilized to give you tools to support symptom management and healthy coping skills.

Benefits of Trying Group Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder

In “Efficacy of Group Psychotherapy for Social Anxiety Disorder” Sarah Barkowski et al. note that trying group therapy like cognitive-behavioral group therapy can support treating social anxiety. Although the anxieties and fears of social anxiety seem like they would conflict with therapy in a group setting, there are specific types of group therapy that can address those negative thinking and behavior patterns. Cognitive-behavioral group therapy can be particularly beneficial because of its focus on exposure, cognitive restructuring, psychological education, and homework. Techniques like cognitive restructuring focus on helping you notice and change negative thinking patterns.

Engaging in restructuring techniques like self-questioning, evidence gathering, and presenting rational alternative thoughts can help you reframe your thinking. Some of the ways cognitive restructuring helps you build a positive reframing of your thoughts include:

  • Questioning the truthfulness of your thinking patterns
    • Ask yourself questions like:
      • Is this thought based on your emotions or facts?
      • Do you have evidence to support this thought?
      • What is the worst-case scenario? How likely is it that the worst-case scenario will happen?
  • Gathering evidence to support or disprove your thoughts
  • Addressing alternative answers to your thinking patterns
    • Focuses on dismantling negative generalizations with rational and positive explanations

Moreover, trying group therapy can help you find a sense of belonging in engaging with people dealing with similar challenges. Being in a group with people who have felt the same types of anxieties and fears reminds you that you are not alone. Further, having access to your fellow group member’s experiences gives you insight into how you can approach the challenges in your daily life.

Finding Healing in Community at The Guest House

Trying group therapy can be a vital tool for the prevention and treatment of disorders like social anxiety. While being around others may make you feel self-conscious, it is through connection that you can discover and grow your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Through the sense of belonging formed in a community of people who face similar social challenges, you can find that you are more than you give yourself credit for. At The Guest House, we believe opening yourself up to others is an integral part of the journey to understanding your innermost feelings and healing. Thus, through trying group therapy in a safe and non-judgmental space, you can rediscover your self-confidence.

The challenges of social anxiety disorder can make building a meaningful and fulfilling life difficult. However, with support, you can find and thrive in a community based on love, kindness, respect, and dignity. Despite what negative thinking patterns try to tell you, you are not hopeless or less than; you are worthy of love, support, healthy relationships, and a fulfilling life. Through a wide variety of therapies and therapeutic modalities, we will work with you to build a personalized treatment plan that meets you where you are. Here at The Guest House, we are here to support you, guide you, and love you back to health.

Social anxiety can impair your daily functioning and work and school performance. In addition, social anxiety can impede life goals like friendships, romantic relationships, and work opportunities. However, trying group therapy can give you the supportive community and tools you need to manage your symptoms to lead a fulfilling life. Integrating group therapy into your treatment plan allows you to engage with and learn from people with similar challenges and dismantle negative thinking patterns. At The Guest House, we are committed to providing a wide range of therapies to support your specific needs for healing. Call us at (855) 483-7800 today to learn how group therapy can support your long-term well-being.