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How to overcome social anxiety disorder

October 12th, 2020 by

According to Psychologist Hans Eysenck, there are two main personality types – there are the introverted characters, and those who lean more towards extraversion. 

Introverts tend to experience life in more subjective realms and prefer their own company over the company of others, while extroverts live in opposition to this.

Extroverts tend to get their energy from people and like to roam around in groups. Extroverts also tend to experience life more objectively.

But, irrespective of personality type social anxiety is rife within most communities, it also appears that anyone can experience it.

What is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a long-term condition that presupposes a phobia of social situations. The anxiety can be so severe that it can cause excessive worry and a person to become overly self-conscious particularly when in social situations.

Not to be confused with being painfully shy or bashful, social anxiety disorder features the kind of symptoms that, if left untreated, can have a severe impact on an individuals life. 

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder often include:

Whereas bashfulness or extreme shyness is a short-term condition, a social anxiety disorder can disrupt the life of the sufferer to the point where they often become socially avoidant. 

The negative impact that social anxiety disorder has on a person’s life appears to be all-encompassing. The condition often impacts a person’s ability to:

Social anxiety disorder is non-discriminatory

Research suggests that social anxiety disorder is non-discriminatory. From the cheerful mailman through to that outgoing friend, you know, the one that oozes confidence by the bucket loads – it seems anyone of us can fall into the clutches of this debilitating disease.

The condition affects around 6.8% of the US population and is as common in men as it is in women. Studies also show that it often takes ten years for people to seek treatment for social anxiety disorder after experiencing life-long debilitating symptoms.

Social anxiety disorder is a widespread issue, and it seems that even Hollywood celebrities are not exempt from the condition. Celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Lady Gaga, Drew Barrymore, and Jim Carrey have all admitted to experiencing high levels of social anxiety.

Due to the nature of their careers, actors and performers are at significant risk of developing some form of social anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, because of this, they are also at higher risk of developing anxiety and depression, and in some cases, a substance addiction.

For example, actor, Owen Wilson, admitted to making several suicide attempts in the past, he has also battled with ongoing depression and drug addiction.

Interestingly, social anxiety disorder affects people (celebrity or non-celebrity) in similar ways, which means that treatment for the condition is executed, in the same fashion. 

What causes social anxiety disorder?

anxiety and being outdoors

There are currently no definitive causes identified for social anxiety disorder as such.

However, there is an amalgamation of causal factors that often play a role in the development of the condition. 

They include:

Other Factors

Statistics show that roughly 30 to 40 percent of those suffering from a social anxiety disorder, are those who possess specific genetic components, meaning that a first-degree relative likely has (or has had) the condition at some stage.

Researchers have also found a strong correlation between specific chromosomes associated with other disorders such as panic disorder and agoraphobia, the same chromosomes that link to social anxiety disorder.

Changes in brain structure have also been identified as one of the pathways leading to social anxiety disorder, as the neurotransmitters are often impaired, which cause the chemicals in the brain to become imbalanced.

Overcoming social anxiety disorder

There are several effective treatments available for combating social anxiety disorder. Here we will examine each one of them in detail.

Therapy

There is a mixture of therapies designed to help people cope with the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. They include:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Also referred to as CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the first-line treatment many therapists recommend for social anxiety-related disorders. CBT allows an individual to explore any limiting self-beliefs they may hold, challenge them, and occasionally put those beliefs to the test.

Since social anxiety is often emotionally crippling, feelings of embarrassment and shame are often the centrepiece of this condition. 

Challenging patients by putting them in real-life scenarios can often be an effective way for them to overcome their anxieties. This technique is similar to ‘flooding’ where patients become exposed to that which they fear.

Social anxiety sufferers tend to ruminate after being in a social situation. They might replay a scene in their minds over and over and often believe that what they said or done in any given scenario was perhaps silly or embarrassing. This ruminating causes them to self-punish and isolates them further. 

Since CBT challenges negative thoughts and behaviours, it is often helpful to challenge patients by (as an example) getting them to ask a shopkeeper silly questions such as, ‘’why is the milk-white and not blue’’. Maybe not that exact question, but you get the point!

CBT is an active, collaborative therapy that seeks to explore the exact cause of what maintains a persons’ anxiety. 

Over time, patients learn to challenge and explore their thoughts and behaviours, and are very often encouraged by a therapist to face their fears with the understanding that having a fear come true ‘’isn’t that bad after all’’.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy originates back to Freudian times (the 1900s) and is sometimes combined with other therapy treatments such as CBT.

The basis of psychodynamic therapy is ‘talk therapy’ where the patient explores any past conflict in an attempt to resolve it. Essentially, psychodynamic therapy brings forth a person’s subconscious desires, wishes and conflict that perhaps they are unaware of, but are driven to self-destruct as a result of those unresolved conflicts.

Since psychodynamic theory holds the view that adult conflict originates from unaddressed childhood trauma, therapists work on the premise that identifying a person’s subconscious and repressed experiences will help treat present anxiety disorders such as social anxiety. 

Psychodynamic therapy believes conflict to be a result of:

Psychodynamic therapy aims to expose any underlying conflict that perhaps might be the cause of social anxiety disorder and work through these issues for long-term resolution.

Medication

Medication will be dependent on many factors, for example, if there are any other co-occurring disorders present. 

Patients are typically prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for symptoms of persistent social anxiety. Other medications such as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) may also be prescribed.

Antidepressants, beta-blockers and anti-anxiety medications can also be an effective treatment for symptoms of social anxiety disorder and are prescribed at the discretion of each individual doctor.

Other practical steps you can take that may help with a social anxiety disorder include:


At White River Manor, we specialise in helping people to understand any self-limiting beliefs they might hold about themselves, and ultimately work towards resolution and long-term recovery.  Contact the team today and find out how we can help.

5 signs you might be suffering from a health anxiety disorder

September 10th, 2020 by

Health anxiety sometimes referred to as ‘hypochondriasis’ is a debilitating mental health condition.

Unfortunately, because of its nature, it can very often be challenging for medical professionals to accurately diagnose (in comparison to other mental health issues).

What is Health Anxiety

Illness anxiety disorder (or health anxiety) is a psychological disorder characterised by excessive preoccupation with one’s health. 

Often categorised within the OCD (obsessive Compulsive Disorder) spectrum, health anxious people have an obsessive preoccupation with either being ill (or becoming ill).

The health preoccupation is often so debilitating that it can impact nearly every aspect of a person’s life.

The worries a typical health anxiety sufferer endures are centred around the possibility of them contracting a serious disease such as Cancer, AIDS, Meningitis and Heart Disease.

Essentially, dangerous and life-threatening diseases often feature at the top of the list for all health anxiety sufferers.

The physical symptoms experienced by health anxiety sufferers can be real or imagined. In cases where the symptoms are real, the persons’ misinterpretation of minor body sensations is often way out of scope despite reassurance from a medical professional.

Harmless physical symptoms often become a massive cause of concern for health phobics.

A skin rash can quickly escalate to meningitis, that lump on the arm is most definitely cancer and the stomach ache that’s been lingering all day could never be down to the dodgy takeaway from the night before. No. It must be a sign of a serious intestinal problem. Likely an incurable one.

Why people develop health anxiety

health anxiety disorder

According to research, experts aren’t sure of the exact reason why people develop health anxiety.

However, contributory factors might include:

Studies show that health anxiety usually develops in early adulthood and often worsens with age. 

Other at-risk groups who have a likelihood of developing health anxiety include:

Some experts believe that health anxiety is prevalent in those who have a natural propensity to worry. Genetic factors also play a role as does each individual’s life experiences. 

Interestingly, according to psychologists, an intolerance to uncertainty can also put someone at significant risk of developing a health anxiety disorder, as health itself can often be unpredictable. 

This lack of tolerance can often spell disaster as it can be very challenging for health anxiety sufferers to ‘sit with their symptoms’ without excessively worrying or having the compulsion to do something about it, such as constantly checking their body or researching their symptoms on the internet.

Health anxiety may be more common in women and occurs in up to 5% of patients visiting GP surgeries.

The difference between a health problem and health anxiety

Since many anxiety symptoms often replicate that of a serious illness, such as:

 It’s important for people to discuss their concerns with a doctor.

Your doctor may ask you about any new, changing, persistent and recurrent symptoms. If after examining you, your doctor concludes that the problem is solely anxiety (rather than a physical illness) then it’s likely that they are correct.

Fortunately, most doctors are able to distinguish between anxiety-related symptoms and sensations since many of the symptoms associated with a disease are unlike those caused by anxiety alone.

It’s perfectly plausible to seek a second, or even third opinion if your symptoms persist and you are still worried. 

Although you can be confident that if all three medical opinions are the same, then it’s likely that anxiety/stress is the cause of your symptoms and not a medical problem.

The health anxiety trap

There are several aspects experienced in health anxiety that can very quickly spiral into a vicious cycle.  

This cycle often lasts a long time, especially if the sufferer is unaware of the thoughts and behaviours that can lead them to become trapped in health anxiety. 

Five signs that someone might be suffering from health anxiety include:

Avoidant behaviour or overexposure

Since health anxiety sufferers are in a constant state of worry and preoccupation over their health, they have a tendency to either completely avoid or overly expose themselves to anything health-related (such as doctors, GP surgeries, health documentaries/articles, hospitals, sick people etc). 

If someone is worried about having breast cancer, for example, they may avoid being naked and rush through daily routines such as bathing to avoid looking at that part of their body. 

When someone is being avoidant, they might experience relief when they are fully clothed since the symptoms of breast cancer are not obvious this way.

However, for someone who is overly exposing themselves, they often feel compelled to constantly examine their breasts for any underlying symptoms. It’s also possible for someone to bounce between being avoidant and overly exposing.

This adds to the point that intolerance to uncertainty is prevalent for individuals experiencing health anxiety.

Reassurance seeking behaviours

health anxiety disorder

Giving reassurance to a health anxiety sufferer is the equivalent of giving drugs to a drug addict.

The way that reassurance typically plays out in illness anxiety disorders is extremely short-term. The sufferer may experience immense relief when given the ‘all clear’ by a doctor. Still, moments, hours, or perhaps even days later, the worry starts to creep back in.

The ‘high’ that most health anxiety sufferers experience when given reassurance is similar to the addictive behavioural patterns found in substance misuse.

Unfortunately, the mania only lasts so long before the same thoughts of worry become invasive again. Hence, the cycle ensues:

Health worry + reassurance-seeking + given appropriate reassurance from a doctor or loved one = temporary relief and the health worry resurfacing.

When someone excessively seeks reassurance, they are raising the bar for future anxiety, as this behaviour feeds into the cycle of future worrying and the sense to seek out even more reassurance!

Health anxiety sufferers may go as far as justifying their reassurance-seeking behaviours with the following statements:

  1. Not all doctors are right. The diagnosis can be wrong.
  2. Even though my doctor gave me good news, he/she still looked worried. Perhaps they are keeping important information about my health from me.
  3. Maybe my results got mixed up with someone else’s.
  4. I received a call from an unknown number. I’ll just ring the doctor’s office to make sure it wasn’t them.
  5. I was seen by a junior doctor. The next time, I’ll choose a more senior doctor to take care of me.

Checking the body for signs of disease AKA’ self – diagnosis’.

Self-diagnosis is perhaps one of the biggest commonalities in health anxiety. The person will excessively check their body for:

In the time it takes to have a shower, a person experiencing health anxiety will have diagnosed themselves with a plethora of life-threatening diseases. 

This excessive ‘symptom-checking’ also includes searching the internet and (often inaccurately) matching their symptoms to the most monstrous diseases out there.

Similar to how OCD works, examining oneself multiple times throughout the day – is a regular occurrence in health-anxiety disorders.  

Feeling guilty when other people around you are sick

Feeling guilty for another’s health misfortune is associated with magical thinking. It is, of course, nobody’s fault when someone around us becomes poorly. 

Although overwhelming feelings of guilt can manifest as overly compensating by going ‘above and beyond’ to help those who are unwell, fostering the blame for someone else’s illness often results in the compulsion to excessively take care of the sick.

The preoccupation of having or getting a disease

This is one of the more obvious signs that someone might be suffering from a health-related anxiety disorder. Key signs that someone might have a health preoccupation include:

Treatment for health anxiety

There are several effective treatments for health anxiety:

Things that health anxiety sufferers must do if they want to get better:


We’re here to help.

Contact us today if you’d like a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained professionals.

How to deal with anxiety & uncertainty in the COVID era

August 29th, 2020 by

One of the reasons so many mental health conditions are known as a type of disorder is because they are when life seems to have gone out of order. Everything seems chaotic – and we don’t know what to do.

For many people, this chaos in life can seem to be never-ending. That is unless they seek help from a professional therapist who helps them understand why it’s happening.

Then the person can be guided back towards a life that is in order once more.

None of this is new. People have been telling and writing stories about humanity’s battle to retain or regain order since time began.

Sometimes this is due to our internal patterns of thinking and responding to various aspects of life. At other times, some sort of chaos is thrown upon us.

This could be the uncertainty that comes from such as losing a job, a relationship break-up, a serious illness or accident or a bereavement. Or it could be something that has never happened in our lifetime, as is happening around the world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This has thrown everyone into an era of uncertainty. Despite predictions, no one can definitively say when or how this will all end.

We are understandably worried for the future about such as our businesses, jobs, finances, homes and our children’s education. There is no direct experience for any of us to base this on – and it all seems so uncertain.

Then, people are worried about catching the virus and some in certain groups due to an existing health condition or their age are particularly concerned. Or we are anxious about these people if they are someone we care about.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

These feelings of uncertainty are really a form of anxiety. We all have some anxiety – it’s an emotion that’s needed to help us stay alive.

For instance, if you’re walking near a big drop it’s useful to feel some anxiety. It causes us to focus.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease about something with an outcome that’s not certain. This can clearly apply to many things in life.

But anxiety can become so incessant and severe that it’s defined as a serious mental health condition. It can debilitate someone from living a normal life on a daily basis.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a long-term condition diagnosed in people who are constantly anxious about a range of life events and situations.

People with their own business or who are executives are particularly prone to such as GAD. This is because they frequently have to make big decisions that have a bearing on many other people and other businesses.

They need to be looking ahead to prepare, for example, to meet future markets. Consequently they will have to consider worst-case scenarios. This can also lead to executive burnout.

In a time like this with increased uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 virus it intensifies the importance of making the right choices. Anxiety and stress levels can go to new levels.

So it’s vital to know the major signs of anxiety. These include:

The best ways to beat uncertainty & anxiety

Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön, originally from New York and the author of several books including When Things Fall Apart, says about uncertainty:

“Rather than being disheartened by the uncertainty of life, what if we accepted it and relaxed into it?”

It’s excellent advice.

But most likely it’s difficult for most people who haven’t spent years gaining spiritual growth as a Buddhist. That’s not to say we should not keep it in mind and try to aim towards it.

There are also some other positive things that anyone can do right now.

It’s also useful to know that uncertainty – although more prevalent than usual at present – is part of life.

In fact, if we could always predict or know the future it would make life quite boring!

It’s good to know too that in these sort of uncertain times we can grow the most. As psychologist Susan Jeffers, author of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, said:

“Each time you have the opportunity to stretch your capacity to handle the world, the more powerful you become.”

“This too shall pass” is another useful phrase to recall next time you catch yourself feeling anxious about the uncertainty ahead. It’s a truth for every emotion and situation in life.

Remember as well that people can often find energy that we didn’t know was there, because we didn’t need to previously dig for it. But we are – in almost every instance – stronger than we think.


Contact us today to talk about how we can help you or someone you care about to deal with anxiety and uncertainty in a positive way.

What does anxiety do to you?

July 9th, 2020 by

Anxiety is a feeling of worry and nervousness about something with an uncertain outcome. In mental health terms, it’s a serious nervous disorder marked by excessive uneasiness and apprehension – typically with compulsive behaviour or panic attacks.

If someone is experiencing anxiety over a period of time, they may have an anxiety disorder such as GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).

This means someone is anxious about life in general rather than one particular concern.

It means someone will feel continually tense, struggle to focus, easily get tired and yet suffer from insomnia. This is normally every day.

There are other types of anxiety disorder, such as panic disorder causing frequent panic attacks; various phobias including agoraphobia; OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder); high functioning anxiety disorder, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

There is an internal sense of the world being in chaos, which is why these are known as disorders.

Whatever the anxiety type it feels different for everybody. Much of anxiety comes from how we deal with life on life’s terms, especially stressful things.

Although having some anxiety is a normal emotion that enables us to focus, for some people it becomes so excessive that a normal life becomes impossible.

Untreated anxiety can lead to all manner of emotional, mental and physical health problems.

What can anxiety do to your mind and emotions?

Depending on the severity and how long they’ve been suffering, someone with anxiety may:

Alongside mental problems, some people with anxiety say how they’re certain they are dying of an undiagnosed illness.

This is because their physical symptoms are so bad they think they cannot be “only anxiety”.

But anxiety can cause considerable physical conditions. Research shows that anxiety can increase the risk of getting such as stomach ulcers, heart problems and diabetes.

Physical effects of anxiety

It is clear that anxiety affects the body. This is because in the fight or flight mode our blood is redirected to our brain, arms and legs to best deal with the situation.

For people with anxiety this situation is frequently a perceived one. But the body doesn’t know this and so still gets ready for fight or flight.

This means the immune system is suppressed because it’s not so vital at the time as such as dealing with an aggressive dog by running away. The body’s nervous system releases stress hormones such as cortisol to boost blood-sugar levels and blood fats.

They are used by the body for fuel to fight or flee. But these are only meant to be for a short burst of activity.

If anxiety persists it can cause damage to tissues and organs that leads to serious health problems.

What can anxiety do to your body?

Someone with anxiety may have:

How else can anxiety affect someone’s life?

breathe coping with anxiety

Someone suffering from anxiety may have difficulty with aspects of their life.

This includes such as simply taking good care of themselves or starting and maintaining relationships.

It can negatively impact getting or keeping a job or achieving at college. It may even lead to someone dropping out from their studies.

Anxiety limits or can stop somebody from taking part in hobbies. Many people with anxiety withdraw from their friends and families.

Sometimes anxiety sufferers attempt to mask it by such as trying to over-achieve, perfectionism or controlling behavior. These are unsustainable though. That sets up the person for increased anxiety.

It can prevent someone from trying new things or visiting new places. At its extreme a person might be too anxious about even leaving their house.

Many people try to seek relief through alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs, cigarette smoking or overeating. If someone who’s very anxious does not seek help, it can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.

What relieves anxiety?

There are many things anyone can do to relieve anxiety. One of the first things is to look at the way they think.

Being too anxious is usually caused by the response to a situation rather than the actual situation.

It is always advantageous to learn how to focus on positive things – and not to focus on what seems to be lacking. As well to know that most things we are anxious about never even happen.

Then such as regular exercise, being in the great outdoors, eating healthily and learning to relax especially through meditation and mindfulness are all great for mind and body.

Also to relax with a book or some comedy, cut down or quit alcohol and drinks containing caffeine, and stop smoking.

Other anxiety-busters include getting to know the triggers and avoiding them, getting into an attitude of gratitude, keeping everything in the day, staying connected to loved ones (yet avoid too much social media and news), and yoga.

Some people find certain medication helps while for others learning to stick to a routine, not taking on too much, practising calm breathing techniques and ensuring a decent sleep works.

A couple of other not so obvious beneficial things to do are to make sure to be kind and of service to other people. Then spend time with animals, such as stroking a pet cat (or dog) as clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson suggests for Rule 12 in his bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

It’s highly likely that taking time out will be of immense benefit too.

Combine this with talking to a therapist who can help someone suffering to realize what thoughts and beliefs cause their anxiety. Then they can work with the person to lessen these. 


Our experienced team can help you or someone you care about deal with anxiety. Contact us today to find out more about our specific treatment options.

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