My short bio: My doctorate is in Psychology, and my specialty is social anxiety and public speaking anxiety. I'm a blogger, author of online courses and ebooks, and a coach - I'm not a therapist. I personally struggled with social anxiety and public speaking phobia and found ways to overcome it and have a good quality of life.

My Proof:

Hey everyone! Thanks for your questions. I'll be back tomorrow through next week to answer all of your questions. You won't see a ton of answers tomorrow, but you'll see more over the weekend and early next week.

Comments: 1387 • Responses: 12  • Date: 

nar2foty2478 karma

Why is it when I'm in a new situation my body reacts by getting shaky and I feel on edge and physically sick, yet in my brain I know it's not a big deal? Like the other day I was going to an acquantince's business to talk to them about doing some casual work there. There was no pressure, it wasn't an interview, and I was looking forward to it. Yet my body reacted like I was about to walk into the middle of a battlefield. I kept thinking to myself What the hell?! Everything is fine, stop freaking out. I tried doing deep, relaxing breaths...nothing seemed to work.

Any insight would be appreciated.

(Also is what I described pretty common/normal?)

bloobidybloop35 karma

Happens to me too. But you know what I tried recently and reallllly helped with physical anxiety symptoms? CBD

Polaritical42 karma

I decided on Monday that I need to start therapy. But I don't get how the fuck I'm supposed to find a therapist. I googled therapists in my town who have hours that fit with my work schedule and accept my insurance....And it's an overwhelming number of people. I've never properly done therapy so I have no idea what I'm really looking for.

mindful258 karma

Hey Polaritical, if you're looking for a therapist who specializes in anxiety, you can narrow that list down. See this article on how to find a therapist (part 1 and part2).

In general, look for a cognitive-behavioral therapist (CBT) as this is the treatment shown to be most effective for anxiety. Also see post about therapy I made a few weeks ago in case you need low cost options.

Just to give you a sense of what I might call the "gold standard," I would ideally look at treatment centers like those listed in this article. You can find more of these by searching on these "find a therapist" sites.

Feel free to send any specific questions you might have.

aatx12281229 karma

Is it possible to completely eliminate social anxiety or it all about recognizing/managing/coping with it?

Is the fact that even having the conscious thoughts of ("I'm socially awkward" "I don't want to be here" "I hate small talk") a sign that SA is not ever going to go away?

mindful22812 karma

That is an extremely insightful question!

Is it possible to completely eliminate social anxiety?

No. Everyone has some social anxiety. Thinking that you're going to completely eliminate it actually keeps you stuck in it. Realistically, your goal should be to reduce social anxiety to a manageable level.

or it all about recognizing/managing/coping with it?

It is about (1) reducing your anxiety to a manageable level, and (2) recognizing/managing/coping with the anxiety at that level.

Think of social anxiety on a continuum of 0 to 10. Where 0 = no anxiety and 10 = off-the charts anxiety. Here are a few important points:

**No one is at a zero in every social situation.

**Those who have a 1-5 fear level have some anxiety but it's manageable. That's the "normal" level.

**Those who have a fear level of 6-10, anxiety symptoms are intense enough to make social interactions painful and this is seriously impacting their life (career, relationships, quality of life).

So if you're at a 6-10 level, your goal is to get anxiety down to a 1-5 level (level will vary between 1-5 depending on the social situation), and to develop a tolerance for the anxiety at that level.

When you watch your family and friends in the 1-5 level, they seem calm. But they do have some anxiety. The difference is that they are tolerating and expecting the anxiety. They are also thinking about the situation differently as explained in this post.

Yes, "I'm socially awkward" "I don't want to be here" "I hate small talk" is self-talk that will keep you stuck in SA. The first one is self-critical and recovery requires self- compassion. The second and third are fighting reality, and fighting reality exacerbates your anxiety.

Here are some ways you can reframe this self-talk with self-compassion and radical acceptance of reality:

*"I have social anxiety right now, but I'm working on it, and over time I will be able to reduce my anxiety to a manageable level."

*"Small talk is something I have to do sometimes in life. It's not what I love to do, but not everything in life is something I love to do, and that's ok."

allkill427 karma

Should I ask her out?

mindful2493 karma

Go for it!

Osborconn321 karma

What’s the best way I can avoid anxiety when trying to study large amounts of information? Also, any advice on test anxiety? I haven’t found much that works for me...

mindful2368 karma

Hey Osborconn, yea good question! Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety where you're on the hot seat. So you should expect to have some anxiety in that situation. But if you have too much anxiety, it can botch up your grades.

So I've found that the first line of defense is really making sure you know the material inside and out. Because you have test anxiety, you may need to spend more time studying than others who don't have test anxiety. It's kind of like practicing a speech over and over - the more you practice, the more comfortable you will be during the pressure situation.

Learning the material inside and out really applies when you're studying lots of information. You have to spend a lot of time reading and re-reading and formulating in your mind the key principles and "big picture." That ensures that you develop a deep understanding of the overarching principles and how the details fit into those.

The second line of defense is learning test taking strategies. This doesn't apply to all tests, but is an example. Like on a timed test, you may want to quickly answer all the questions you know and then come back to those that need more time. That way you'll definitely get the points for those items you know. Here are some good test taking strategies.

Let me know what you've tried that hasn't worked. And are there any that have worked for you?

YaDunGoofed128 karma

I've found that the first line of defense is really making sure you know the material inside and out


second line of defense is learning test taking strategies

I realize you're the expert and while those are both useful, I feel like there is a better answer. Realizing full well that you've been doing this for 30 years and have seen a thing or a million, I still think this is worth saying even if I'm down voted to oblivion.

I haven't found that learning the test inside and out is a useful answer here. The anxiety is almost always manifested as test anxiety as a symptom and not a cause. Sure knowing everything pat calms that on a specific test, but you won't always know everything and it's exactly those times when you need a better solution!

What I HAVE found to work on myself and others is reframing what meaning there is to the test, so that fear isn't stressing you out in the first place because you understand that it's ok to "fail". Ie, the goal can be reframed to "this is my first time, let's see how I can best do", "If I don't get this, I still have another shot", "If I don't get this, I still can find 5 other ways to reach my dreams"

mindful2200 karma

Yea, you're right! I did not give a very thorough or satisfying response. My head is wrapped around public speaking situations and social anxiety more than it is around test anxiety. But I'll come back to this question again. :)

you won't always know everything and it's exactly those times when you need a better solution!

I really like what you said here:

What I HAVE found to work on myself and others is reframing what meaning there is to the test, so that fear isn't stressing you out in the first place because you understand that it's ok to "fail".

Yea, it's a paradox that giving yourself permission to fail can take that pressure off and can provide the mental clarity you need to succeed. Thanks for bringing that up.

MechaNerd152 karma

Is there anything I, as a partner to someone with GAD and Social Anxiety, can do to make it more bearable? Any way I can help her to help herself?

mindful2146 karma

Yea, great question. I would start by having both of you read this article, and think about some of the communication tips.

Is she open to therapy? I think that is her greatest need. These types of treatment clinics can really help. They are evidence-based cognitive-behavioral anxiety treatment centers that have very high quality programs. You can search for treatment centers or individual therapists by location here.

lokiidokii140 karma

Does practice actually help - like would it be beneficial to join a Toastmasters group? Are there any other things/exercises/books you can recommend to help with public speaking?

mindful2464 karma

Yes, practice and gradual desensitization are key :) See the diagram in my blog showing how the Law of Habituation works. Practice is what brings the anxiety down.

It's like learning to ride a bike or drive a car. When you do it the first time, you're really scared. But the more you do it, your anxiety goes down. That's how it works with public speaking anxiety. The key is to find a safe group where you can slowly and gradually desensitize.

It would be great for you to join a Toastmasters group. Or a "pre-toastmasters" group (like a laboratory) where you can desensitize step-by-step before jumping into the deep end of the pool.

In addition to public speaking desensitization, I recommend that you find ways everyday to increase your tolerance of scrutiny. Public speaking anxiety is caused by a fear of negative judgment and scrutiny. So the more you can increase your tolerance of scrutiny, the better.

Here's an exercise to try (ask a friend to help you): Sing happy birthday to your friend on a street outside a store. Or hum in a store while shopping. Notice that nothing bad happens. One of the things you want to teach your brain is that scrutiny does not have horrible consequences. Tell yourself, yes some people looked at me, but did anything really bad happen? Am I really paying a price for this?

Start off doing scrutiny exercises that you can handle easily. Find things that are a bit of a stretch for you (just outside your comfort zone) but not overwhelming. Something you can handle but is slightly uncomfortable. Then go to the next challenging situation. So if the singing happy birthday is too much at first, start with something easier.

Try to invite scrutiny at least once a day. Remind yourself that nothing bad happens. As you get comfortable with the first exercise, try to do progressively more challenging exercises.

Let me know your thoughts!

Squishy_Pixelz87 karma

Do you know of any accurate, free online social anxiety tests? Of course an in person diagnosis would be more beneficial, that’s not an option

mindful2178 karma

Yea, here's a list of free online social anxiety tests.

ruggerbear47 karma

Understanding that causation cannot be determined scientifically, from your professional experience, do you feel that personality characteristics cause anxiety or that anxiety causes personality?

mindful271 karma

Yea that's a great question. It goes both ways.

Your personality - including the way you look at the world and interpret things - contributes to your anxiety.

See this post for ways you might be interpreting things that contribute to your anxiety.

At the same time, when social anxiety prevents you from a fulfilling career and relationships, that shapes your experiences and your personality.

Social Anxiety can shape your self-image and self-esteem. And your self-image or feelings of inadequacy can reinforce your social anxiety.

They reinforce each other.

nikofant26 karma

So, everyone is always telling me they have anxiety to speak on stages, and also every. Single. Movie. Imve EVER seen with a public speech scene, has some kind of anxiety part in it. But I just don’t get it. I never get anxiety when speaking in front of a large audience, nor do I get any noticeable anxiety when with other people.

Is this normal? I hear so much about people having anxiety that I’m not sure my lack thereof is normal.

mindful252 karma

LOL! Yea the other thing I hate is reading that most people fear public speaking more than death! Not true.

You're normal :)

So here's the deal. Think of fear on a continuum from 0 to 10. 0=no fear. 10=terrified. The higher you get towards 10, the more intense your symptoms (heart beating fast, mind going blank, sweating, tight chest, self-focused awareness, trouble concentrating, etc.)

Let's start with people who have a fear level in the range 1-5. This group may get some symptoms when speaking (sweating, etc.), but those symptoms are less intense and are manageable. This group can get through their talk despite having some symptoms. This is by far most people.

  • For those on the higher end of the continuum (like fear level 5), speaking may be a bit uncomfortable, but they can tolerate the discomfort and get through the task.

  • There are those who may have a zero in some speaking situations, and may have a 5 in other situations.

  • The key characteristic of this group is that they can get through it, and the symptoms don't stop them from performing.

The group with a fear level of 6-10, they have symptoms that are escalating out of control. Their nervous system has kind of tricked them. This is probably less than 12% of the US population.

Public speaking anxiety/phobia is a type of social anxiety. You can find statistics on social anxiety here.

phuqnutz11 karma

I have a question, but I'm afraid to ask it. blushes furiously

Do you have a broad recommendation for people to get over public speaking anxiety? Is it simply exposure therapy?

My own experience was that I was terrified for years....and then one day I just didn't care any more and haven't had a problem since.

mindful278 karma

Awesome question! I'm happy to hear you don't have that anxiety anymore - that's great!

To answer your question about broad recommendations, getting over public speaking anxiety basically boils down to three things.

1. You gotta really want it! You have two voices. One voice focuses on the fear. The other voice focuses on wanting more freedom and a higher quality of life. The second voice says "I want this now." When the "I want this now" voice is LOUDER, you are motivated. You gotta be motivated to do the next steps.

2. Lots of studies have shown that thinking about things in new ways can reduce anxiety symptoms. So it's about changing your perspective of yourself and your audience.

Think about times in your experience where you've changed your perspective on something and it made a huge difference. That's the kind of perceptual shift we're talking about.

In studies with thousands of people with social anxiety and public speaking phobia, it turns out that there are common characteristics or thought patterns. Once those thought patterns get tweaked, we start seeing changes in behavior.

6 common thought patterns:

*Overestimating negative consequences (if I make a mistake, it will be horrible and awful). This is one of the hallmarks of all phobias. This is why I recommended the scrutiny exercises here

Counter-thought: Actually, the consequences of making a mistake is not usually that bad.

*Overestimating the likelihood that something horrible will happen. This is the other hallmark of all phobias. This is why I recommended the scrutiny exercises here

Counter-thought: Try to think through where you're overestimating the level of potential disaster.

*Fear is bad and fear symptoms are bad.

Counter-thought: Actually, fear is natural and I should expect it. When encountering a perceived threat, I will get some adrenaline in my body and I will experience some symptoms. If I don't add fearful thoughts on top of this first layer of fear, I can keep fear to a minimum.

*Social standards are high and I have to be perfect.

Counter-thought: Actually, social standards are not as exacting as you think, and most people are friendly and supportive.

*I can read minds. Do you jump to conclusions and assume people are thinking negative things about you?

*People are hostile or competitive. Studies show that people with public speaking fear/phobia tend to think of social situations as more competitive or hostile than they really are. In many cases, people are thinking neutral or positive things, and people are much more supportive than you might think. Focusing on the negative.

Counter-thought: Research has found that those with social anxiety or public speaking fear tend to focus on the negative (like focusing on the one person in the audience who is not smiling) rather than focusing on the positive (like all of the others in the audience who are smiling).▪︎ Having unclear goals like “I want everyone to like me.” This is unachievable because you’ll never know if you achieved it or not. It’s more helpful to focus on goals such as “I want to get my message across clearly so I’m going to talk slowly and make sure that I’m communicating as clearly as I can.”

3. Exposure By this we mean really slow, gradual, sensitive desensitization tailored to your needs. And while you're getting desensitized, you're practicing new ways of thinking. Gradual exposure actually rewires the neural pathways in your brain. Gradual exposure also gives you memories of successful public speaking experiences that you will draw on as you improve.

So the important thing is to really want this, start changing your interpretation of things, start experiencing successes in a public speaking situation, and build on that success with regular practice.

horsecave2 karma

Will Adderall help with my anxiety or just intensify it?

mindful211 karma

That's a good question for a Psychiatrist. And of course you've got lots of first hand accounts on Reddit. So I will defer to a medical doctor on that question.