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Proven Strategies for Tackling Social Anxiety This Summer

Proven Strategies for Tackling Social Anxiety This Summer

While many people are looking forward to a summer of outings, gatherings and socializing, others may be experiencing some social anxiety at the thought of heading back out into the world. Due to COVID-19, most of us were indoors for the greater part of 2020 and 2021. But as vaccination rates continue to increase, governments are relaxing restrictions and businesses are beginning to reopen to the public. Though we are still being cautious, many people are now able to visit restaurants, bars, gyms and sports venues after more than a year of lockdowns.

While some are excited at the prospect of life going “back to normal” and being able to visit friends, attend events and socialize, others may feel reluctant about heading back out into the world after so much time at home. This reluctance may be because of concerns about the pandemic itself, or you may have gotten so accustomed to life at home that going out now feels strange.

For others, the prospect of being invited to gatherings and events brings on a feeling of anxiety due to the social expectations. If these feelings of fear and anxiety start to affect your ability to function in your daily life, you may be dealing with social anxiety disorder.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is a common mental health condition that affects more than 15 million Americans. Though many people develop it in adolescence, it can easily continue to affect you in adulthood if not properly addressed.

Social anxiety disorder is an intense and often debilitating fear of being judged or rejected in a social setting or a performance-based scenario. People dealing with social phobia may feel anxious about being seen in public or having to socialize with others. Common thoughts include a fear of being perceived as awkward, boring or stupid to peers or even strangers. As a result of these fears, you may avoid social settings such as dates, parties or dinners with friends or colleagues. For some people, social anxiety extends into work-related settings and can affect your ability to perform in job interviews, performance evaluations, presentations or meetings. For others, social anxiety can affect their ability to go to the gym or go for a run outside, for fear of being watched or judged by others.

When symptoms persist for at least six months and affect your daily life and activities, it may be time to speak to a mental health professional to address the symptoms.

Is social anxiety the same as shyness?

Most people will experience shyness at some point in their lives and it’s easy to conflate this with social anxiety because they can be quite similar. Shyness is very common in childhood and adolescence as we develop social skills and become more comfortable with our bodies and ourselves. By adulthood, most people would have outgrown this shyness or developed coping strategies to enable them to push through the shyness and form meaningful relationships with the people around them.

Social anxiety is characterized by intense and extreme symptoms that can impair your ability to function in your daily life. People with social anxiety often go as far as avoiding social situations altogether, causing them to miss out on important opportunities for personal or professional growth. Those with social anxiety disorder may lose sleep due to their intense feelings about an upcoming social situation and often experience physical symptoms such as a racing heart, shortness of breath or sweating.

If you are isolating yourself on a consistent basis due to fear or anxiety, or if the anxiety is preventing you from living the life you want, you may be dealing with a disorder, as opposed to just shyness.

What are the signs/symptoms of social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder often manifests in both physical and psychological symptoms. When placed in a social setting, you may begin blushing, sweating or may experience an increased heart rate. Other common physical symptoms include clammy palms, nausea and an inability to project your voice.

Your mind may begin racing, or it may go completely blank. Social anxiety can also result in feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness or insecurity. You may be overly critical of the things you say and do and how these things will be perceived by others. When your fears and feelings of anxiety cause you to avoid social activities on a regular basis, this is one of the clearest signs of social anxiety disorder.

During a screening for social phobia, your clinician may ask questions such as:

  • Do you have an extreme fear of looking silly or awkward to others?
  • Do you avoid activities where you might be the center of attention?
  • Is it difficult for you to relax in social settings?
  • Do you avoid situations that require you to be sociable?

Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder

The good news is that treatment for social anxiety disorder is available and effective. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular treatment options due to its short treatment time and effectiveness. CBT teaches you to challenge the racing thoughts that cause you to become anxious in social settings. For example, you can learn to realize that at the gym, people are too focused on their own workout and body to be judging you. As you learn to reframe your thinking, you can slowly become more comfortable in these settings.

Exposure therapy is another effective treatment option for social anxiety. This is when you gradually work yourself up to the situations you fear the most by starting out with less challenging situations. For example, you can start by eating alone in public to teach yourself that nobody is watching or judging you as you eat. As you become more comfortable, you can work your way up to being able to go out with a friend to eat and then a small group.

Based on your unique challenges, a mental health professional will be able to work with you to find the best treatment plan. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology are trained to help treat a variety of mental health challenges, including social anxiety disorder. Schedule your first session with a therapist who can help you to live your best social life.

Do You Know These Important Differences Between CBT And DBT?

Do You Know These Important Differences Between CBT And DBT?

If you’ve been thinking about starting therapy, you may have come across the terms “CBT” and “DBT” in your research. Though they may sound similar, there are many important differences between these two kinds of psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are two of the most common treatment modalities used by clinicians to treat mental illnesses, improve your thoughts and behaviors and equip you with the skills needed to handle the various challenges in your life.

Because these two forms of therapy work in very different ways, it’s important to understand the key differences between them so that you can choose the one that’s right for you. Here at Flourish Psychology, we want to get you matched with the clinician who best meets your needs. After a free consultation, you’ll begin seeing your therapist, who will determine the best type of therapy based on your unique needs.

Let’s explore some of the differences between these two kinds of talk therapy.

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of talk therapy that’s considered to be a fast and reliable way of addressing negative thought patterns caused by cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are habitual ways of thinking that are inaccurate and usually negative. It’s an exaggerated thought pattern that is not based in fact, causing you to view things a lot more negatively than they really are. For example, you may believe that an unanswered text message means that your friend is upset with you when in reality, they misplaced their phone. CBT teaches you the skills needed to slow down, identify cognitive distortions and challenge them. This can lead to a more positive outlook on life.

CBT teaches you how your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all linked to each other. By changing your thoughts, CBT also allows you to change your behavior and develop more positive habits and ways of living. CBT is a structured, short-term and goal-oriented form of therapy, used to address a specific challenge or issue in your life.

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy was developed as a form of talk therapy to help people cope with extreme, overwhelming or unstable emotions. With this form of therapy, the emphasis is on emotional regulation. DBT is actually a modified form of CBT that is more focused on coping with stress, anger and difficult relationships with other people. DBT was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), but is now commonly used to treat other mental health conditions or to help people who have difficulty in regulating their emotions. DBT is excellent for curbing self-destructive behavior and is particularly effective in treating substance abuse disorders.  

Differences Between CBT and DBT

  1. They’re Used to Treat Different Concerns

A key difference between CBT and DBT is that they’re used to treat different mental health concerns. DBT was developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), but has proven to be effective in treating patients who have difficulty managing their emotions, such as persons with anger management concerns. On the other hand, CBT is more focused on challenging negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions. CBT helps you to change unwanted behaviors by first managing your thoughts. CBT is usually used to treat a specific concern in a relatively short period of time

2. They Equip You with Different Skills

Both CBT and DBT equip you with important skills that stick with you long after you’ve completed your treatment. With CBT, it’s all about teaching you how to identify and challenge cognitive distortions and reframe your thoughts. One of the most common cognitive distortions is “all or nothing thinking” or “black and white thinking.” This is when your brain sees things in two extremes and fails to acknowledge all the possibilities in between. With all-or-nothing-thinking, things are either perfect or a complete failure. CBT teaches you to recognize that things are never black and white.

DBT skills focus on distress tolerance and teaching you to regulate your emotions during difficult times. When you are able to recognize your emotional triggers, you can prepare yourself to react more rationally in times of distress.

3. They Have Different Treatment Times

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented form of talk therapy. Patients begin their CBT journey with a specific concern or goal in mind. CBT lasts a few weeks and is proven to be effective in this relatively short time period. DBT is a longer-term form of therapy that is more generalized in nature. DBT can continue for as long as the patient wishes to continue

4. They Take Different Approaches to Relationships

CBT is more focused on your relationship with yourself and the way your own thoughts impact your emotions and actions. With DBT, the focus is on how external triggers impact your emotions and behaviors. CBT is more of an “inside job” because it teaches you to pay attention to your thoughts, identify negative thought patterns and change them into more positive ways of thinking. DBT, on the other hand, helps you to respond more rationally to the challenges that arise in your daily life based on your environment or the relationships with the people around you.

CBT OR DBT – Which Is Right For You?

By understanding the differences between CBT and DBT, you’re better able to determine which type of therapy would be most beneficial for you. Here at Flourish Psychology, our clinicians are trained in both forms of therapy and stand ready to help you achieve your goals. When you schedule a free consult, you’ll share your main concerns challenges and goals so we can get you matched with a therapist who best meets your needs. After your initial sessions with your therapist, they’ll be able to determine which form of therapy is right for you. Some patients have even found it beneficial to learn skills from both treatment modalities to help address multiple challenges in their lives.

To learn more about CBT or DBT, or to schedule a free consult, contact us today.

5 Important Ways Depression Treatment Can Improve Your Life

5 Important Ways Depression Treatment Can Improve Your Life

Depression is a debilitating, yet common, mental illness that affects over 240 million people worldwide. Treatment for depression is very effective for most people who seek it. However, most depression is left untreated due to factors such as accessibility, affordability and the stigma surrounding mental illness. Depression is not the same as short-term sadness or the usual mood fluctuations that come with day-to-day life. It’s a significant, chronic mood disorder that interferes with daily activities. Clinical depression, also known as major depression is considered a psychiatric disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Depression, when left untreated, can have devastating effects on all aspects of life. The good news is that treatment for depression is incredibly effective, whether through talk therapy, medication or a combination of both. Here are a few ways that your life can be improved by seeking treatment for depression.

1. Sleep

A change in sleep pattern is a common sign of depression. This can mean sleeping more or less than usual. The most common sleep problem associated with depression is insomnia – the inability to fall or stay asleep. The lack of sleep then exacerbates the depression, in a seemingly never-ending cycle. In other, less common, cases, people with depression sleep more than usual. Depression can be physically draining and it’s not uncommon to feel fatigued or to be unable to get out of bed. Some people with depression also use sleep to escape “the real world” and may begin using or abusing sleeping aids. Sleep deprivation is associated with memory problems, a weakened immune system and trouble with concentration. 

By treating depression, you are likely to see improvements in your sleep.

2. WORK

Untreated depression will undoubtedly affect your work over time. If you commute to work, you may find it extremely difficult to get out of the house and get to work on time.  If you work from home, you may find that you are not getting much done. You may be unable to concentrate on your tasks or may lack the motivation to work. Perhaps you’ve lost all interest in your work, though you may have enjoyed it in the past. Or maybe, your job is a major environmental contributor to your depression. Many employees are fearful of speaking up about their depression, due to concerns about confidentiality or victimization in the workplace. 

Through treating your depression, you may be better able to cope with the challenges of your job.

3. PERSONAL HYGIENE

Depression (and other mental illnesses such as PTSD and bipolar disorder) can have a significant effect on your ability to engage in self-care. Tasks that once seemed simple, such as taking a shower, shaving or brushing your teeth, can feel overwhelming when you are severely depressed. This can also extend to taking care of your physical environment and you may avoid tasks like washing dishes or disposing of trash. Over time, many people with depression begin to feel ashamed of their appearance or environment, thus worsening the depression. 

When depression improves, you’ll be better able to take care of yourself and your surroundings.

4. RELATIONSHIPS

Untreated depression is bound to have a huge impact on your relationships. Quite often, depression causes you to be more isolated or withdrawn. You may be unwilling to engage in social activities, even remote ones like video calls, responding to texts or using social media. You may become less affectionate or disinterested in sex, which may have an impact on romantic relationships. In turn, the people around you may be unsure of how to help you, or may be unaware that you are depressed. It’s common to feel like a burden, which may cause you to further isolate yourself from loved ones. 

You are likely to see improvements in your relationships after receiving treatment for your depression.

5. PHYSICAL HEALTH

Though depression is a mental illness, it can have significant impacts on your physical health. Changes in diet or eating patterns are common, resulting in weight loss or gain. Eating problems can lead to stomachaches, constipation and other digestive symptoms. Many people use drugs or alcohol to cope with depression and these substances certainly have an impact on the body. Depression, over time, also has the ability to affect the immune, cardiovascular and central nervous systems.

When depression is treated, you’ll be more motivated to take care of your physical health through exercise and healthy foods.

Depression should not be ignored or left untreated. The majority of people who seek treatment for their depression are able to overcome or manage their symptoms. When effectively treated, you’ll begin to see major changes in your mood, your ability to manage your responsibilities and your overall wellbeing. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy  (CBT) is an especially effective treatment option that allows you to see changes in a relatively short time. 

CBT helps you to overcome your depression by examining your thoughts and core beliefs. Ultimately, you will be able to form a new way of thinking that is more positive and compassionate. You will be better able to cope with whatever life throws your way, whether at work or in your personal life. 

The clinicians at Flourish Psychology have years of experience and training in treating depression and other mood disorders. Click here to schedule a free consult to start seeing changes in your life.

ADHD, TikTok and the Risk of Self-Diagnosis

ADHD, TikTok and the Risk of Self-Diagnosis

If you’ve been scrolling through TikTok within the last few weeks, you may have noticed the sudden increase in content creators talking about ADHD. The conversation around neurodiversity has spilled over onto other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, too. Many people with ADHD are speaking up about their experiences, in an effort to spread information and normalize the disorder. 

Public awareness of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder has seen a huge increase in recent years. These days, it’s common knowledge that ADHD doesn’t only affect children. There’s plenty of research into adult ADHD and how it affects everything from finances to relationships. It’s no surprise that the millennial and Gen Z populations are speaking up about it on social media.

Videos with the #adhd hashtag on TikTok have received over 2 billion views, with others like #adhdsquad and #adhdcheck receiving hundreds of millions of views. Popular themes for videos include “things I didn’t know were ADHD related” “a day in my life with ADHD” and “tips for managing ADHD.” A scroll through the comments will reveal thousands of people saying “this is so relatable!” and “omg do I have ADHD too?” 

Maybe you’ve heard your friends talking about ADHD recently. Maybe you’ve wondered if you may have it, too. Why has there been such an increase in these conversations?  How can you get help if you suspect you may have ADHD?

Why the Sudden Increase?

You may be wondering why everyone is talking about ADHD all of a sudden. A good guess is that the pandemic has something to do with it. Over the past year, we have all experienced significant shifts in our daily routines and structures.  This lack of structure raises especially difficult challenges for neurodivergent people. While it may have been easier to manage the disorder pre-pandemic, many people with ADHD are finding it difficult or impossible to meet their obligations right now. 

The pandemic represents a moment of reckoning for many people. These unprecedented challenges may cause you to realize things about yourself  that were not so obvious before. 

It’s not just ADHD. Content creators are speaking up about everything from borderline personality disorder to bipolar disorder. It can be tempting to self-diagnose when you identify with a blog post or video about mental illness. You may be wondering what to do if you suspect that you may have ADHD, bipolar disorder or another mental illness. 

The Danger of Self-Diagnosis 

Self-diagnosis can sometimes be an important step in getting the help you need. For many people, self-diagnosis prompts a visit to a professional who can make an official diagnosis. It’s very common to visit a mental health professional because you already have a suspicion about a particular disorder. You can then visit a psychologist to discuss your suspicions so you can get a professional opinion. 

In all of this, it’s important to remember that a “self-diagnosis” is merely a suspicion. A true diagnosis can only be made by a trained and qualified professional. 

Self-diagnosis is dangerous when you do not confirm your suspicions with a professional.  If you believe that you have a particular diagnosis, you may be tempted to self-treat with over-the-counter medication, a change in diet or some other behavior. Doing this without a doctor’s recommendation can have serious consequences. Self-diagnosis can also wreak havoc on your mental health by increasing your anxiety. It’s easy to get lost in the Internet rabbit hole, leading to information overload or a feeling of doom. 

There is also the risk of confirmation bias. You may already be so convinced that you have a particular disorder, so you start to identify with every symptom you see. A professional is able to be much more objective and nuanced when making an assessment. 

Getting an official diagnosis is the only way to access an effective, proven treatment plan for ADHD or any other disorder. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD 

The most common treatment plan for ADHD is a combination of medication and talk therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is especially effective in adults with ADHD. Many people with the disorder face frustrating setbacks at work, with their finances and life in general. Unmanaged ADHD can manifest in missed deadlines, chronic procrastination, late payments and an untidy home. Over time, people with ADHD can start to see themselves as lazy, unproductive or slow. This could not be further from the truth. People with ADHD have unique challenges not faced by neurotypical people. When equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools, they can thrive in any environment. 

Because of these setbacks and frustrations, adults with ADHD are often self-critical and pessimistic. Negative thought patterns, cognitive distortions and low self-esteem are extremely common. People with ADHD often experience feelings of failure or like they “never get anything right.” These demoralizing thoughts can prevent you from being happy and reaching your true potential. In this way, ADHD and depression are often comorbid, meaning you experience both at the same time. 

Medication will treat the neurological aspects of ADHD. Talk therapy helps you to manage the difficult thoughts and emotions that come along with ADHD. You will learn how to challenge these negative thought patterns, many of which may have been with you since childhood. 

CBT also provides practical skills and strategies for managing ADHD. You may notice improvement in daily challenges like time management and procrastination. During a session of CBT, you may be asked to consider the thoughts and emotions you have around a certain task. Maybe you will realize that you are procrastinating because of a cognitive distortion. For example, with “all or nothing thinking” it’s easy to believe that you can either be perfect or a failure and there is no in-between. You delay starting a task because you fear you will not be able to do it perfectly. Getting to the root of your procrastination is a crucial step in overcoming it. 

If you suspect you may have ADHD or any other mental disorder, contact us for a free consultation. Our client services assistant will schedule your first therapy appointment. You’ll be well on your way to an official diagnosis and a treatment plan that best meets your needs. 

Self Compassion Leads to Emotional Resilience

Self Compassion Leads to Emotional Resilience

Self compassion is the deliberate practice of being kind, gentle and understanding with yourself. It entails being aware of your own suffering, challenges and shortcomings without judgment. It is often said that self compassion means affording yourself the same kindness that you would offer to a friend in a similar situation.

Research into the practice of self-compassion has shown considerable benefits for overall wellbeing. People who are more self-compassionate tend to have better physical and mental health and are less prone to anxiety and depression. Interestingly enough, the “tough love” approach tends to break us down over time. On the other hand, being gentler with yourself actually helps you develop emotional strength and resilience.

How you can practice self compassion

Self compassion begins with the knowledge that you are a human being who is trying their best. Everyone makes mistakes and will experience failures and regrets. Remind yourself that you are not the only one who is feeling afraid or uncertain. This is all a part of the human experience and you are doing the best that you can under very challenging circumstances. Self compassion involves recognizing that your mistakes, perceived inadequacies and suffering do not negate your value and worth as a person.

One of the easiest ways to show yourself compassion is to pretend that you are a beloved friend who is going through a rough time. Even if your friend was somewhat at fault or genuinely messed up, wouldn’t you assure them that it’s okay? Wouldn’t you let them know that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and that this too will pass?

You certainly wouldn’t berate your friend by telling them that they deserve to suffer because of the mistake they made. You would never tell a friend that their life is forever ruined because of one wrong decision. So why do we do this to ourselves?

Being a good friend to yourself

Ashley just found out that she didn’t get a job that she was really banking on. She feels hurt and rejected and her mind spirals with all kinds of thoughts. She tells herself that she will never get hired because she just isn’t impressive enough. The hiring manager probably saw her application and laughed. She should just give up the job hunt now because she will never find a good job.

Now, imagine that Ashley calls her boyfriend and tells him that she didn’t get the job. He responds by saying that he isn’t surprised because she simply isn’t impressive. He tells her that the hiring manager probably took one look at her email and deleted it. He tells her she should just give up on job hunting because she’s never going to find a job.

Ashley should dump that boyfriend, right? How could he be so mean during a moment of vulnerability?

It’s so easy for us to treat ourselves in ways that we would never tolerate from the people in our lives. It’s so easy to say unkind things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to the people we love. The next time you’re feeling low, ask yourself what you would want to hear from a close friend in that moment. Then say those things to yourself. It may feel strange at first, but soon it will become natural for you to treat yourself with gentleness and compassion.

Self criticism versus self compassion

Self criticism usually has good intentions. When we criticize ourselves, it’s often because we hold ourselves to very high standards. It’s easy to believe that self criticism helps to hold yourself accountable or keeps you in check when you mess up. But in the long run, self criticism can turn into a constant loop of self-loathing, leading to poor self esteem, depression and anxiety. You begin to fear your own brain’s mean comments, so you are constantly on guard and afraid to make mistakes or take risks.

Self compassion, on the other hand, provides a safe space where you feel empowered to try new things. You know that you can rely on yourself to be supportive during inevitable moments of failure and regret. This helps you to build emotional resilience over time. Self compassion is a source of inner strength that helps people to cope with the difficulties that life throws their way.

Self criticism cuts you down over time and can even make you cynical. Self compassion builds you up.

What self compassion is NOT

Self compassion is not the same as self pity. Self compassion comes from a place of empowerment, not victimhood. Self compassion does not mean that you do not accept responsibility for your actions or that you make excuses for bad behavior. Rather, self compassion gives you a safe space to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings without feeling ashamed of them. Self compassion reminds you that you messed up because you’re a flawed person who is doing their best. Self compassion gives you the strength to try again – and to do better next time.

Activities to promote self compassion

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective ways to challenge critical self-talk and embrace a more compassionate state of mind. This form of therapy helps you to identify and challenge negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors, so you can deal with them in a healthy way. You will explore and identify where there is a block in your life. You will also look at the beliefs you hold about yourself and how they affect your well-being. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology are trained in this kind of therapy. Schedule a free consult to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.

Journaling is an especially useful tool for encouraging self compassion. Take the time to write about a situation that is causing you distress, guilt or shame. Then write a response from the perspective of a loving friend who can see the situation more objectively.

Why not come up with a self-compassion mantra that you can repeat to yourself whenever you need to? Examples include “I am going through a hard time and I will be kind to myself.” Try to use your mantra to counter any intrusive or unkind thoughts. Be mindful of when you are being harsh or critical towards yourself. Sometimes these thoughts are so frequent and common that we don’t even notice. Stop and ask yourself whether you’re really being fair and whether you would be speaking to a friend in this critical manner.

Self compassion is a deliberate practice that becomes easier over time. It may be difficult at first, but it’s sure to have long-lasting effects for your mental health and wellbeing.

How To Use CBT to Manage Fear

How To Use CBT to Manage Fear

During the Halloween season, many of us are watching scary movies, reading spooky books and enjoying the festive decorations. During this time of year, we put the spotlight on the emotion of fear and being scared. But most of us don’t fear monsters, goblins or vampires.  We more often face the fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of missing out (FOMO) in our daily lives. Fear can prevent you from reaching your true potential and living your best possible life. Some of us may fear specific situations, objects or people. In trying to avoid these triggers, we may face difficulties in our daily lives and in the pursuit of our goals.

Fear is a powerful emotion that is instigated by perceived danger or threat. This emotion causes distinct physiological and behavioral changes. This can then trigger other emotions such as anger, sadness, and shame. In responding to this emotion, we may react by avoiding the perceived threat or confronting it. This is called the fight-or-flight response. This response can also trigger involuntary physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweaty and trembling hands, feeling lightheaded and frequent urination. These symptoms can then worsen your feelings of anxiety as you may feel like you are sick or in physical danger.

The Purpose of Fear

Fear is a very useful emotion. It’s the body’s way of telling us that there may be an impending threat to our safety or wellbeing. While fear can be a healthy and safe response in many situations, there are other times when a fear response is less helpful. In these situations, fear can prevent us from having valuable life experiences. For example, the fear of rejection may prevent you from applying for that job you want. Fears associated with social anxiety may prevent you from meeting new people and forming relationships. A fear of confrontation may be a hindrance to standing up for yourself in unjust situations.

A phobia, which is a type of anxiety disorder, is a persistent and excessive fear of a specific object or situation. People with phobias will do everything possible to avoid the object of their fear. They will experience significant distress if they cannot avoid the trigger. Agoraphobia, for example, causes people to avoid daily activities such as going to the bank or grocery store. Hydrophobia prevents many people from going to the beach.

COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY FOR MANAGING FEAR

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly known as CBT, is a fairly modern psychotherapeutic modality. It focuses on challenging (and ultimately, changing) unhelpful thought patterns, beliefs and cognitive distortions. CBT encourages you to literally face your fears via exposure treatment. This has shown to be effective in patients across the board, from people with extreme phobias to social anxiety. Exposure therapy encourages patients to “climb the fear ladder” by exposure to the object of fear in gradual increments.

For example, a patient with a fear of spiders may first look at pictures of spiders, then watch a video. When they are ready, they can observe a spider in an enclosed space from far away. Over time, they will get closer and closer. One day, they may get as far as handling a spider with their bare hands. This, of course, takes place over an extended period of time and at a pace that the patient can reasonably tolerate. If your exposures are overwhelming, this can have a counterproductive effect.

Similarly, those with social anxiety may climb the fear ladder by first smiling at a stranger on their daily commute and build their way up to initiating a conversation with someone at work. One day, they may feel confident enough to pursue a romantic interest. Decades of research has shown that if we deliberately and systematically confront our fears, the symptoms of anxiety drastically decrease over time.

Challenging Negative THOUGHTS

CBT also tackles fear by encouraging you to challenge your thoughts and cognitive distortions. Let’s suppose you are afraid of going outside to exercise because you think that everyone will laugh at you. CBT asks you to stop and challenge that thought. Why would they laugh at you? Wouldn’t they be too caught up in their own busy schedules to even give you a second glance? Do you laugh at people when you see them exercising? If someone does laugh at you, what does that say about them?

After asking yourself these questions over time, you may begin to notice that most of the things that you fear do not ever come to pass. You may also begin to notice that some fears are illogical and not rooted in fact. It also becomes evident that most of the time, the feelings of anxiety are far more intense than the actual experience of facing fear. With this knowledge, you become less fearful over time and more inclined to take action even when you are feeling fearful.

cbt offers faster results

Fear is an emotion experienced by everyone, but is far more common in people with mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an effective and relatively quick type of therapy that is particularly effective in treating these conditions and in managing fears. Many patients see results within 5-20 weeks and patients are able to use the CBT techniques on themselves for the rest of their lives. In this way, CBT teaches you to be your own therapist.

The clinicians at Flourish Psychology provide a wide array of treatment modalities, including CBT. We would be happy to have a free consult with you to discuss your therapy needs.

Written by Francine Derby