Taking the “Dis-” Out of Social Anxiety Disorder

For millions of Americans and people around the world, social anxiety is a debilitating condition that can lead to depression and other symptoms. Beyond individual symptoms, social anxiety is known to detract from overall quality of life. Given the tumultuous years of adolescence and young adulthood thereafter, it comes as little surprise that a high percentage of those with social anxiety disorder are under the age of 25.

A litany of treatments from cognitive behavioral therapy to specific medications are often indicated for the condition. But a new study performed by a team from the psychology faculty of Philadelphia’s Temple University suggests that a little “order” can go a long way towards helping to quell the tide of anxiety. Aside from its more obvious importance, the study’s implications transcend the scope of social anxiety treatment.

The study took advantage of its setting and assessed a group of 40 local students with social anxiety. Half of the group was assigned a 25-minute writing exercise covering their own analysis of a recent negative social situation they experienced, while the other half was given a battery of specific, detailed questions to answer briefly. Emphasizing the difference between open-ended “free writing” and structured, succinct answering, the researchers aimed to reveal whether order was more beneficial for the subjects in alleviating anxious symptoms.

While many from the group that was given a long writing assignment experienced a worsening of symptoms, none of the students who answered the structured questionnaires reported further difficulties. Confident that the introduction of order into an otherwise frenetic or over-emotional thinking pattern can help to stabilize an individual, the team has published their work in the journal “Behavioral Research and Therapy,” and may bring powerful knowledge to the treatment of anxiety within the context of counseling and therapy. Open-ended analyses of one’s own experiences or feelings may prove ineffectual in the long term, while more organized approaches may help sessions achieve greater impact.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • alli


    February 9th, 2009 at 4:10 PM

    I have found in my own life that I can greatly reduce the amount of stress that I feel by simply making goals for the day along with a to do list- I feel a great sense of accomlishment when i can mark things off of my list and it helps to greatly reduce the stress and pressure that I feel throughout the day.

  • Laura


    February 10th, 2009 at 3:12 PM

    Diagnosed with social anxiety disorder when I was a teenager I have found my twenties to be pretty horriffic. trying to balance my fears with college, a job, and everyday living has been quite difficult for me. The recent economic crisis has made my disorder even worse. None of my meds seem to be helping too much and I think I may need a new therapist but really do not know how to break up with my current one. Would it be ok to solicit advice elsewhere? How would I go about getting a referral to another doctor? I am clearheaded enough to know this is probably a step I need to take but I guess I am just not sure how to get started. I think the gwriting therapy sounds interesting and was thinking of finding someone who could help me to pursue this possibility.

  • Deborah


    February 17th, 2009 at 2:19 PM

    Without my anxiety medication some days I am a real mess. But it does help knowing that there are those of you out there who recognize that this is a real problem and are working to help those of us who experience very real issues with anxiety. There have been times in my life when I have gotten really down about it, and have not known how to deal. My medications do help as well as talking with doctors and friends whom I do not feel are judging me harshly for my condition or looking down on me. It is good to know that study continues forward with people with anxiety disorders and that there continues to be those who care about helping people like me with the symptoms.

  • Jim


    February 28th, 2009 at 7:03 AM

    I dont know if my son is suffering from this as he is always anxious about everything. He sweats and sometimes cant think or talk coherently when he has tasks to do. Happens a lot around times when he has work at school or while meeting new people.

  • Bonnie


    February 28th, 2009 at 3:24 PM

    Jim I think I would have my child seen by a psychiatrist or at least a counselor that you can trust at his school. In fact there are many school districts that offer free testing in situations such as this. If he is indeed suffering from some type of anxiety disorder it is probably going to only get worse as he gets older and that could really be damaging to not only his academic career but to his entire life in general. There is no time like right now to take action. If you avoid the situation it is probably not going to get better or go away on its own. I am speaking as the voice of experience because not ony do I suffer from this myself but have a young child who does as well and when left untreated it is not a pretty site. I am not saying any of this to scare you but to hopefully motivate you into taking positive action. There are some things we juat cannot handle alone and this happens to be one of them.

  • how to deal with anxiety

    how to deal with anxiety

    August 3rd, 2009 at 3:19 AM

    Anxiety can create problems for you if not taken care of in its earlt stage. There are many natural herbs and therapies which can cure anxiety.

    Some natural anxiety remedies to look into are St.John’s Wort, SAMe, L-Theanine, and Tryptophan. There’s also cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and programs like Panic Away and The Linden Method, to name a few. Hope this helps!

  • social anxiety treatment

    social anxiety treatment

    September 1st, 2009 at 6:20 PM

    Stress and some unpleasent experiences may lead to anxiety. Some natural anxiety remedies to look into are St.John’s Wort, SAMe, L-Theanine, and Tryptophan. There’s also cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and programs like Panic Away and The Linden Method, to name a few. Hope this helps!

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