Social conscious realms of ourselves. Once the conscious

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Last updated: September 23, 2019

Social anxiety disorder (SAD/Social Phobia) is the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. You could say social anxiety is the fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people.  It is a pervasive disorder and causes anxiety and fear in almost all areas of a person’s life.  It is chronic because it does not go away on its own.  I experience SAD anytime I am in an environment with unfamiliar people, large groups of familiar people, or any social setting where I don’t feel comfortable.

As a college student, this means I experience this anxiety on a daily basis. The large amount of social activity needed to complete college successfully means a constant battle within me not to break down. My first memory of feeling Socially Anxious was when I was 14. As a child with severe ADHD, it was very hard for me to properly communicate with people.

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I would impulsively say things without a filter that simply made me look stupid or offended others. Due to this, I grew up constantly pushing people away from me, slowly realizing that people didn’t like me. At the age of 14, I realized I had this impulsivity and decided to start taking control of it.

This was the stage when I starting feeling the anxiety and fear of being in social settings. Once I realized how much I was being judged, I built a fear within myself of looking stupid in front of new people and large groups of friends. Since then, I stay home a lot and spend most of my time sleeping or studying.According to the structural model of psychoanalysis theory (Freud & Bonaparte, 1954), anxiety stems from tension in one (or more) of our drives. The psychoanalytic theory further explains that when multiple drives are in a state of conflict that cannot be relieved, anxiety may develop. According to Freud (Freud & Bonaparte, 1954), once I realized that I was constantly saying things that offended people, my superego became conflicted. The superego is the part of ourselves that is bound by morals, offending people consciously would go against the principles of my superego’s, causing anxiety.

Freud further explains that our ego is the part of us that is realistic trying to make sure we act in accordance to social norms. It is located in the subconscious as well as in the conscious realms of ourselves. Once the conscious ego in me realized I was acting foolish by saying stupid things that went against social norms, it created a conflict.

The stupid, impulsive, and offensive things I was saying to people was most likely outbursts of my Id. The superego realizes that some of the things I was saying were offensive and against my moral beliefs, causing a conflict. This conflict of drives causes the superego to fight with the Id resulting with the ego initiating defense mechanisms in order to reduce the anxiety it produces. Initially one of the defense mechanisms my ego used was repression. Repression is a defense mechanism where the ego makes thoughts that are disturbing (such as: me acting like a fool or me not being accepted by others) unnoticeable from my conscious awareness. Once I stopped repressing and started to realize I was making a fool out of myself (maybe due to pubescent hormones causing my Id to overpower my ego), my ego began to employ a new mechanism of defense. Sublimation is the next defense mechanism my ego used and still does today. Freud might argue that I am able to mentally shut out my social anxiety by converting that anxiety onto something else, in my case, sleeping and studying.

Sleeping and studying for periods much longer than normal could be interpreted to my ego helping me minimize thinking about issues, I am transferring my anxiety to a new medium of sleeping and studying more. Sleeping and studying is something I can consciously control in order to help shut out my social anxiety, by eliminating the need to socialize which produces the internal anxiety that follows. Regression occasionally occurs in times of distress. According to Freud & Bonaparte (1954) when an individual is stressed he might regress to an earlier stage he experienced stress in. I noticed that I bite my nails very often and chew on my tongue, this might be a sign of me regressing into the oral stage where I might have had some stress as a child. I think it is possible I maintain this social anxiety because my ego hasn’t found a proper way to deal with these conflicts in my drives, maybe conflicts are so strong that external help will be the only way to help with the anxiety caused by the conflict between my drives.

The maintenance of my SAD might also be due to the fact that I am comfortable staying home and studying or watching TV, my ego’s defense mechanisms gave me a solution that while not ridding me of my anxiety in social situation still allows me to be comfortable in a specific state and place. The most effective option for social anxiety treatment based off of psychoanalytic theory, would be a supportive-expressive (SE) therapy (Luborsky, 1984). Research by Leichsenring, Beutel, & Leibing (2007) has shown that the most effective therapy (based of psychoanalytical theory) for social anxiety is supportive-expressive therapy.

In SE the main goal will be for a therapist to find my Core Conflictual Relationship Theme (CCRT) of which my symptoms are based. Once my CCRT is identified by a therapist we can begin to focus on the underlying issues. Though SE treatment is effective, Leichsenring, et.al. (2013) recently conducted research which shows that although supportive-expressive therapy is better than no therapy, the cognitive-behavioral approach is more effective specifically in cases of SAD. For this reason I will focus on the cognitive-behavioral approach for my therapy.

There are many different models and steps used for CBT as a means of treatment for SAD, so I will focus on some of the main points from the research done by Rodebaugh, Holaway & Heimberg (2004). The first step is exposure, though controversial if exposure helps, research by Crozier & Alden (2001) has shown that if I focus on others reactions rather than my own thoughts (in exposed situations), the exposure might be useful. The second step would be to use relaxation techniques when I’m in a situation that causes me to feel anxious. Progressive muscle relaxation Berstein, Borkovec, & Hazlett (2000) can help me with the physiological changes I feel when I get anxious. The third step is social skills training, this step can help me immensely learn how to better interact with people as well as help me understand when I am saying something foolish, this can also help me get positive reinforcement from the people I am interacting with which in turn will help me with my internal thoughts.

The final and most important step is cognitive restructuring. In this step I will try to identify automatic negative thoughts about myself that cause me distress, once identified I can attempt to change the negative thoughts to be more positive. One way I can do this is by firstly identifying the negative thoughts by asking myself what I was thinking when I started to feel anxious, once I identify my negative thoughts I can challenge them by internally questioning myself for evidence that supports these negative thoughts, I can also challenge myself by asking myself what the odds are that the negative thoughts are realistic. Finally after I challenge my thoughts I can replace them with actual realistic thoughts that are more positive.Writing this article definitely changed the way I view my disorder, I have tried to use various mechanism before to try to help myself with my SAD but I never thought of looking at it from the science perspective of it and from the clinical point of view. Reading countless articles about studies which experimented on hundreds and thousands of participants made me realize how prevalent SAD is and how effective treatments like CBT and SE can be.

I also read many articles about the success CBT has had in comparison to medication treatments which I have taken before to no avail, I will definitely be trying CBT or SE in the near future and hope I can overcome my issue.

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