Ask Our Therapists - CBT Tools to Overcome Social Anxiety

CBT Tools to Overcome Social Anxiety with Angela Krumm, Ph.D. 

This video addresses social anxiety and how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. It emphasizes the importance of identifying specific anxious thoughts in social situations, such as fear of making mistakes or being judged.

The first step in overcoming social anxiety involves recalling and writing down these thoughts, followed by identifying errors or distortions in them. Through CBT interventions in social anxiety treatment, individuals learn to challenge and rebut these negative thoughts effectively. Angela Krumm shares the next phase in coping skills for social anxiety, which involves addressing behavioral aspects, such as initiating and deepening conversations or gracefully ending them.

Role-playing exercises help individuals practice these skills to increase confidence and fluency in social interactions. For example, they may rehearse conversation closings with compliments or express gratitude while politely declining further interaction. The video encourages persistence in practicing these techniques, reassuring viewers that improvement is achievable.

Overall, it offers practical guidance for therapists and individuals on how to overcome social anxiety through CBT.


Dear FGI therapist, 

I've been dealing with social anxiety for quite some time now, and it's affecting my ability to fully enjoy even the simplest life experiences, like having a conversation. Every time I begin speaking with someone, I can't help but feel a sense of unease and self-consciousness.

I understand that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often recommended for managing social anxiety, but I'm not sure where to start. Are there specific CBT strategies that individuals like myself can employ to overcome social anxiety and gradually build confidence, even in seemingly mundane situations like having a meaningful conversation? I'm eager to make positive changes in my life and regain a sense of control, but this anxiety seems to be holding me back.

Thank you for your time and any guidance you can offer.


Response from Angela Krumm, Ph.D.

A lot of people struggle with social anxiety, sometimes for years. Maybe they've heard about cognitive behavioral therapy but don't know where to start.

One important part of starting with cognitive behavioral therapy is to identify the specific thoughts that are creating anxiety for you in social situations. There's common thoughts people experience such as I might make a mistake, people will judge me, maybe even thoughts like I'll freeze up or not know what to say. Everyone's thoughts are different and so a first important step is to remember Remember a time where you felt an intense sense of anxiety and write down exactly the thoughts you can recall that were running through your brain. After that, we have a really important job of identifying any errors in the thinking. 

You see, we tend to rehearse negative thoughts that may not even be entirely valid and often are not helpful to us. When we review these thoughts, we can identify common errors or distortions in the thoughts and learn powerful tools to talk back to those anxiety-inducing thoughts that are actually making it more likely we will in fact struggle in social situations, feeling bad and sometimes having our behavior becoming increasingly awkward. A next step after we've learned to talk back to our anxious thoughts and practiced rebutting those thoughts is to work on any behaviors that we need to address to have more comfortable social experiences. Many of the patients that I work with struggle with how to start conversations or introduce themselves. Maybe chit-chat feels awkward. 

Others are fine with that part, but are really struggling to know how to deepen conversations. And another subset struggle instead with how to wrap them up when you're feeling done or when it starts to feel like the conversation is petering out. In those cases, we practice those skills together in role play to become more fluid and increase your confidence in talking back For example, we could imagine exact ways that you could wrap up conversations when you want it to come to a close and practice those verbally. For example, you might simply say, pair a compliment, gratitude, with an invitation to do it again. Something like, I'm so glad that we got to chat. I really enjoyed this and I hope we'll do it again. 

Or if you're not interested in seeing the person again, we'd practice a version where you might, again, work with a compliment, some type of gratitude, and wrap it up without the invitation. Lots of ways to work on it. Keep up the work and know that it can get better. 

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