Social Anxiety Background
Social anxiety has affected me since I was in elementary school. While it was triggered initially by a traumatic experience, it is something that runs in the family and I certainly had a predisposition for. Some examples of how it manifested itself over the years: avoiding certain types of social situations and friends, avoiding public speaking, avoiding the opposite sex completely, hiding in the library during lunch, the thought of just walking down certain hallways at my highschool terrified me, fear of being around large groups of people, fear and avoidance of going to parties or social gatherings, etc. My social anxiety started to get severe when I dropped out of college after one quarter because of my social anxiety. That's when I started to get uncomfortable just leaving my apartment and hit "the bottom" so to speak. Through treatment with group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR) for mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and medication I've been able to live the balanced life that I value and form healthy friendships and relationships.
Jonathan Berent's Beyond Shyness program. I found certain aspects of it beneficial, like the section on diaphramatic breathing and on how time is something people with social anxiety often neglect, but I found it not to be nearly as comprehensive or helpful as Dr. Richards program. I did come upon after having worked with Dr. Richards material, so that's why I may have found some the additional techniques useful.
There are a lot of "overcome social anxiety" programs out on the internet. This is not just another person trying to make a buck.
Dr. Richards has been working with people with social anxiety in cognitive-behavioral therapy groups since 1994. This is the same therapy he uses in those groups, but available to you in a very thick book and on 20 CDs or tapes.
Personally, I came upon this program right after a real low point in terms of my social anxiety. I moved to San Francisco and started doing this therapy on my own. I found out through the Dr. Richard's Social Anxiety Institute mailing list that a group based on his therapy was starting up in San Francisco. As anxious as I was about it, I decided nothing was going to change unless I pursued treatment, so I signed up for the group and go in touch with Valdeck the group leader.
Working through this therapy, I came to understand how pervasive social anxiety is, how it really can affect every aspect of your life. This was pretty profound, considering that just earlier that year I didn't know to label what I had as social anxiety disorder.
But as Dr. Richards talks about in therapy, just knowing what you have and talking about why you have it, is not enough to help. Taking action, in the right way, is what brings about change.
In terms of the therapy itself, it covers EVERY facet of social anxiety.
Through working with this therapy and participating in the group I came to do things I never thought I would do (dance at clubs, take improv lessons, join toastmasters, go on dates, lose my virginity, go shirtless at a beach, develop healthy friendships and relationships, etc.) and my anxiety mostly dissolved for what had made me very anxious in the past (making phone calls, answering phone calls, going shopping for clothing, just leaving my apartment, etc.)
He even addresses the very real aspect of relapse, with specific therapy that focuses on "setbacks", something I found to come regularly throughout my treatment.
This therapy really sets the right attitude and gives you techniques to feel capable to get out in the world and expose yourself, little by little, to that which you fear. Again, I want to emphasize that the steps you make are very small and it takes time, but the change that comes is real.
The ultimate goal that can be achieved through this therapy is being able to live and enjoy the life you value.
Medication can certainly be an beneficial option for some people with social anxiety, but I think the CBT found in Dr. Richards' program will benefit anyone with social anxiety who is willing to put in the effort to work on the therapy and little by little expose themselves to what makes them anxious.