Tag Archives: Anxiety

Blogging as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Social Anxiety, part 5

This post continues the series about Social Anxiety Disorders which started with The Zone of Normality and the fear of standing out, and presents some alternative Cognitive Behaviour Therapy-like approaches to overcoming social anxiety problems.

I have so far written about undertaking a few (almost) conventional CBT strategies. This post is about hybrid, inventive CBT-like strategies using blogging as a catalyst for overcoming social anxiety.

 
The Shyness Project

The Shyness Project by Brittany Wood is a great practical example of a Do It Yourself CBT-like strategy carried out, although Brittany doesn’t call it that. Brittany started her one-year blog project in January 2011 with a goal of overcoming a range of social anxiety problems within one year, progressively month by month. During that year she systematically worked through her anxiety problems by setting up and engaging in trigger-situations with real people and documenting her progress on her blog.

Brittany’s strategies are easy to imitate (and be inspired by), and neatly organised into the problem categories they target, such as Phone Phobia, Talking to Strangers, Dressing Confidently, Public Speaking and Make New Friends. Her blog contains a variety of musings about aspects of social anxiety and socialising, and include guest posts such as this one, and I can warmly recommend The Shyness Project as inspiration.

 
The Shyness Project - Screen print of article
Image from this interview with Brittany in Psychology Today

 
Freelancing and blogging as a cure for phone phobia

One of the most effective things I have done to overcome phone phobia was to research and write a blog series about TelephobiaContinue reading

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The ‘Asking for Feedback’ strategy

Social Anxiety, part 4

This post presents a personal perspective on one Cognitive Behaviour Therapy technique addressing social anxiety: asking for feedback. It continues the series about Social Anxiety Disorders that started with The Zone of Normality and the fear of standing out .

 
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Asking people for feedback – Cognitive Restructuring strategy

Asking people for their feedback is a key CBT strategy. The purpose is to reality check negative assumptions about what others may think, and hopefully prove the negatively biased assumptions wrong.

I like this strategy, because it can provide valuable information that helps me to understand the world better. It also thrills my relentless inner researcher. Real life feedback helps me to update my inner social map, which makes social navigation much easier. So I actually often do ask people about their feelings and opinions (maybe even occasionally too much). The problem with it is that, very often, most likely, people don’t give honest feedback.

It is impossible to know when people lie and when they don’t, so the feedback isn’t really reliable information. But here is why I think it is a good idea to ask people for feedback anyway, even if they lie: because asking isn’t just to collect information; asking is in itself a statement.

  Continue reading

What is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Social Anxiety, part 2

Continued from The Zone of Normality and the fear of standing out.

This is primarily a link-back-to post which briefly outlines how Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) works. If you’re already familiar with it, you may as well skip this post. The next posts will describe experiences with specific CBT techniques.

 
CBT is a key psychological treatment concept for social anxiety disorders and depression. It is founded on the belief that most of our feelings and behaviours result from what we think and believe about ourselves and the world around us. Our inner system of cognitive beliefs guides our reactions to what happens to us and to how we can solve the problems the world present to us.

However, this inner system can develop distortions that impact our behaviours and attitudes in (self)destructive ways, and which result in a life dominated by irrational behavioural patterns and suffering*. That is where Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can help.

 
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Cognitive Behaviour Therapy […] is a form of, frequently brief, psychological therapy which involves a range of techniques aimed at altering patterns of thoughts, behaviour, and in turn, emotion. It is an approach that has been successfully applied to a wide range of psychological problems from anxiety disorders and depression, through to eating disorders and schizophrenia.

Cognitivebehaviourtheraphy.com.au

 

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy against Social Phobia

Social Anxiety/Phobia evolves around negative assumptions and excessive worries about the risk of social failure and being harshly judged by others, where the anxious person imagines that other people constantly focus on him/her in a negative manner. The worries loop around in stressful he-thinks-that-I-thinks-that-he-thinks types of thinking patterns which can consume enormous volumes of brain power, distract from important problem solving, and act as barriers to well being and life success overall.

 
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy aims to empower people to break the vicious circle of destructive thoughts and behaviour patterns by carrying out 3 types of therapeutic tasks:

  1. Cognitive Restructuring – Identify dysfunctional thinking patterns and replace them with better ones
  2. Behavioural Activation – Implement & reinforce the changes systematically in real life situations through practice
  3. Exposure – Desensitise triggers by means of controlled, gradual exposure to trigger situations

 


In real Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, you train yourself – Watch Video from 2.12 to get the point

 

Overall, CBT programmes for anxiety typically involve**:

  • Psychoeducation (learning about the mechanisms of dysfunctional thinking)
  • Relaxation techniques (breathing, muscle relaxation)
  • Realistic Thinking (cognitive restructuring)
  • Facing Fears (exposure)
  • How to Prevent a Relapse (behaviour activation)

In summary, CBT is goal oriented, now-oriented and evidence-based. It doesn’t look for deep, complex root causes of psychological problems, but focuses on ‘how’ rather than ‘why’. In concrete terms, that means that it***:

  • focuses on developing new skills
  • focuses on changing current behaviour patterns that are maintaining symptoms
  • outlines and works towards specific objectives
  • involves specific, structured home work between sessions that enables cognitive restructuring (become aware of irrational thought patterns and change them) and exposure (confront trigger situations and practice new skills)
  • is brief and time limited (in America: typically 12 to 16 sessions)
  • is structured. Each session has a specific agenda and objectives
  • is collaborative – therapist & client work together to develop strategies to overcome problems
  • aims to enable the client to ‘become his/her own therapist’
  • is research based (evidence based). CBT has proved effective against Social Phobia symptoms

 
Shrink cartoon

 
That’s it… Very simplified.

There exists a vast array of tried and tested Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques. CBT worksheet download sites like this one from GET.gg or this one from Oxford University Press gives an idea of the nature of typical cognitive restructuring techniques. In the next posts, I’ll write about personal experiences with some of these and other CBT techniques.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in CBT. My knowledge about it is mostly based on Internet research, and is fairly superficial. If you are more knowledgeable about it than me and would like to convey a deeper knowledge of the topic, then please feel free to contribute with your insight in the comment section.

 

* Source: CBT techniques, part 1:  Cognitive restructuring by Nelson Binggeli

** Source: AnxietyCB

***Source: Social Anxiety Support