The Social Anxiety Institute, Inc

Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step, also new page @
Audio Series (300x237)_0

A complete audio series (twenty sessions), composed of comprehensive cognitive-behavioral therapy specifically designed and structured to help overcome social anxiety disorder. Now available as a digital download in .mp3 format, with the accompanying workbook/handouts in .pdf format. After payment, you will be able to register on our Help and Support site, which has another two hundred pages of relevant material that will help you overcome social anxiety. The Guide to the Series and the Q&A for every session is available when you register. You will receive an e-mail link to download the audio series and the handout book in a zipped file.

Please note: The audio series, the accompanying handout book, and all related materials are legally copyrighted. The only way we grow and are able to help more people is by providing this invaluable material for an extremely inexpensive price. Two trips to a psychologist or therapist would cost more than the entire price of the audio series, and the two trips to the therapist will not do much good. You have your whole life ahead of you, and people are overcoming social anxiety by using what we’ve learned already. Please choose to get better, use the audio series and overcome social anxiety. If you really want to get over social anxiety, you will thank yourself for making this decision.

Already available to registered users: the guide to the series, questions and answers for all twenty sessions, topic questions and answers.

Digital downloads mean no more UPS or postal charges. No customs, international exchanges, or VAT problems for people living outside the US. Digitally downloading the audio series, will save everyone considerable money. As a person working on overcoming social anxiety, you will be provided with a large amount of additional materials that will help you on your journey — leaving anxiety behind.
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January 11, 2013
Social anxiety makes you believe that getting better is impossible. It lies to you and trips you up every time you make an effort to overcome it. It puts roadblocks in your way and tells you that you’ll never be able to get around them (when just a touch from your little finger would knock it over).

Social anxiety makes everything dark and hopeless. It makes you feel powerless and helpless. Social anxiety likes using your brain’s neural pathways and doesn’t want you to start using them to learn new things that would steal you away from it. Social anxiety holds on tight, and gets you to believe huge, ridiculous lies about yourself: I will always feel this anxiety, I will never have friends, I can never feel good at work, I can never take a promotion because then I would have responsibilities I couldn’t handle. I can’t go to college because the instructor may ask me questions, I won’t be able to make friends there, people look at me funny and make me feel like I’ve done something wrong. Walking past a policeman makes me feel guilty, even though I’ve done nothing wrong.

Even cleaning my desk is uncomfortable because people are watching and judging me. Maybe I walk funny. Maybe I don’t hold my back straight enough. Maybe people are grossed out by my hair. I know everyone dislikes me. Why am I like this? What did I ever do wrong? I’ve never hurt anybody. Why can’t I be normal? Why can’t I get a good job? Why can’t I have friends? Why am I so hopeless? Everyone else seems to be fine…


Get in appropriate treatment, because do you know what? In all truth:
There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with you, except you are believing what social anxiety wants you to believe.

Choose to believe the truth. Turn your back on all the old lies that hold you back and restrict your life. You CAN get free from all them, and you CAN have an anxiety-free life. You DO have a choice.

Still Hiding In The Shadows

In 2000, in the midst of the big pharmaceutical television barrage, when the big pharmaceutical companies tried to sell antidepressants to everyone with an anxiety problem, the general public began to sit up and take notice.  Social anxiety disorder?  No one had heard of that before.  Was it something real, or was it something the big pharmaceutical companies were promoting to sell more of their new SSRI drugs?

Some people thought this was a ridiculous diagnosis.  “You mean being shy is now a disorder?”   This was a theme of many general articles in the early years of the century, and it had the temporary effect of making the general public skeptical of this “new” anxiety disorder.

Many people refused to believe it existed.  “I’ve never met anyone with these symptoms,” they said.
Meanwhile, through government epidemiological data, we found out that social anxiety disorder was actually the third largest mental health disorder — of any kind.  Alcoholism was first, depression was second, and social anxiety was third.

According to the definition in the DSM-IV, social anxiety had devastating effects on people’s lives.  Left untreated, it restricted people from almost all the things they wanted to do in life, and had devastating long-term effects, such as high rates of unemployment and substance abuse.  Low rates of friendships and relationships were recorded.

Where were all these millions of people?

I had this horrible disorder myself, and never ran into any else like me.


Maybe there was a common-sense reason the general public didn’t understand social anxiety disorder.

I was shy, inhibited, worried about everything, and shunned the spotlight.  If someone had asked me questions about “social anxiety disorder” I would have avoided them, or run away from them.   I didn’t want any attention on me.  I didn’t want to feel so vulnerable, open, so raw, so exposed.

When I had social anxiety disorder, everything about my life was a mess, and I wasn’t able to tell even one person about these fears and worries.  The times I tried to tell people did not go well.  They could not accept what I was telling them.   It was too foreign to their own life and their own experiences.  Most people were stone-faced and didn’t comment.  Some people thought I was making things up.

“Life can’t be that bad, can it?”

So, I learned to keep my mouth shut and suffer in silence.  I suffered great amounts of anxiety each and every day of my life for over twenty-five years, most of the time hiding it very well from others.

Maybe that’s why no one had ever heard of social anxiety and no one wanted to believe it existed.

Progress has been made in the last decade.  Most clinicians (about 75%) can diagnose social anxiety disorder appropriately.  Research is now plentiful.  People with social anxiety have “gotten together” with each other because of technological advances — mainly through the internet.

Still, few treatment centers exist and there are even fewer success stories of people overcoming social anxiety.

Research and our clinical knowledge tell us how to overcome social anxiety.   Thankfully, some people’s lives are being transformed today.

How do we get the message out to everyone else?

How many people, when they get the message, will do anything about it?   The “cure” has to be through permanent changes in the brain, and some people may not like the fact that it takes effort and persistence to get over this disorder, since the brain itself must be changed.

Luckily, I know that almost everyone with social anxiety who comes to see me is serious about overcoming this disorder.  They will commit to the time and patience it takes to get better.  I believe that if people could understand what social anxiety truly is, we would make much faster progress against this silent, yet deadly, destroyer of lives.

It can’t get more real than that.

— Thomas A. Richards, Ph.D., Psychologist

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association currently defines social anxiety disorder in the following way.

Please note that while this definition of social anxiety is the most definitive and clearly produced to date, there are several potential problems with this definition that will hopefully be addressed by the task forces, editors, and research coordinators of the association as time progresses.

The Current DSM-IV  Definition (Abridged):

A.  A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.

The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be embarrassing and humiliating.

B.  Exposure to the feared situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally pre-disposed Panic Attack.

C.  The person recognizes that this fear is unreasonable or excessive.

D.  The feared situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety and distress.

E.  The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in the feared social or performance situation(s)interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.

F.  In individuals under age 18 years, the duration is at least 6 months.

G. The fear or avoidance is not due to direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drugs, medications) or a general medical condition not better accounted for by another mental disorder…

Social anxiety is the fear of social situations and the interaction with other people that can automatically bring on feelings of self-consciousness, judgment, evaluation, and inferiority.

Put another way, social anxiety is the fear and anxiety of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression.

If a person usually becomes anxious in social situations, but seems fine when they are alone, then “social anxiety” may be the problem.

Social anxiety disorder (formerly termed “social phobia”) is a much more common problem than past estimates have led us to believe.  Millions of people all over the world suffer from this devastating and traumatic problem every day, either from a specific social anxiety or from a more generalized social anxiety.
In the United States, epidemiological studies have recently pegged social anxiety disorder as the third largest  psychological disorder in the country, after depression and alcoholism.  It is estimated that 7-8% of the population suffers from some form of social anxiety at the present time.  The lifetime prevalence rate for developing social anxiety disorder is 13-14%.

Specific and Generalized Social Anxieties

A specific social anxiety would be the fear of speaking in front of groups (only), whereas people withgeneralized social anxiety are anxious, nervous, and uncomfortable in almost all social situations.

It is much more common for people with social anxiety to have a generalized type of this disorder.  When anticipatory anxiety, worry, indecision, depression, embarrassment, feelings of inferiority, and self-blame are involved across most life situations, a generalized form of social anxiety is at work.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

People with social anxiety disorder usually experience significant emotional distress in the following situations:

Being introduced to other people

Being teased or criticized

Being the center of attention

Being watched while doing something

Meeting people in authority (“important people”)

Most social encounters, especially with strangers

Going around the room (or table) in a circle and having to say something

Interpersonal relationships, whether friendships or romantic

This list is certainly not a complete list of symptoms — other feelings have been  associated with social anxiety as well.

The physiological manifestations that accompany social anxiety may include intense fear, racing heart, turning red or blushing, excessive sweating, dry throat and mouth, trembling, swallowing with difficulty, and muscle twitches, particularly about the face and neck.

Constant, intense anxiety that does not go away is the most common feature.

People with social anxiety disorder know that their anxiety is irrational and does not make “head” (i.e., cognitive) sense. Nevertheless, “knowing” something is not  the same thing as “believing” and “feeling” something.

Thus, for people with social anxiety, thoughts and feelings of anxiety persist and show no signs of going away — despite the fact that socially-anxious people “face their fears” every day of their lives.

Only the appropriate therapy works to alleviate social anxiety disorder, the largest anxiety disorder, and the one that few people know anything about.

by Thomas A. Richards, Ph.D.,

Psychologist/Director, Social Anxiety Institute
If you’re scared to talk to people (as with any other strategy) start SLOWLY and EASILY. Pick someone who you are not afraid of and talk. As you realize you are OK talking to “easy ” people, then just gradually determine who causes you anxiety — but choose someone who only causes you a little anxiety. A little anxiety that you can be rational about; before, during, and after. (You need to be

doing cognitive therapy at the same time you’re doing these behavioral strategies).Give yourself credit. Wave hello to someone if a conversation seems too scary, say “HI” and nothing else (keep on walking), acknowledge the people you can, but always start with the easiest people and work your way up. One small step today turns into a big step for the future.
Some rational beliefs may be too hard to believe at this stage in your life. You cannot FORCE what is rational to become a belief of yours automatically. However, open your brain up to the idea that MAYBE (just possibly) this belief is true. It may not be true now, but maybe in another month … or another year … it may be true.Do not close your mind off to things. Don’t say you’ll “neve

r” be able to do something, such as speaking in front of 100 people. Right now, it is rational to say “I can’t do that yet”. But it may not be rational to say “I can NEVER do that – I HATE public speaking!” MAYBE that will be true… but MAYBE your thoughts and beliefs may change in the next twelve months.The therapy solution: (It’s easy): Just keep your mind OPEN to things by saying “MAYBE or PERHAPS later on I will be able to do that”. Don’t close your mind off by saying “never” “can’t” or “hate”.Life will change for you if you keep your brain open like I’ve just explained… 😀 Step by step, little by little, things will add up.


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