Do you experience social anxiety? Have you always been curious about effective treatment? Would you like to free yourself from your social anxiety so that you can become more confident in your own skin and approach the world more openly and authentically?
I’m Dr. Aziz, and I’ve been studying self-confidence and social anxiety for the better part of two decades. In that time, I’ve coached thousands of people through personal training sessions, group masterminds, and multi-day immersive events . . . and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it is this:
No matter how lost or overwhelmed you feel, you have the power to transform your mindset, develop your ultimate confidence, and change your life for good.
What’s the catch? You have to put in the work.
So, first thing’s first: what is social anxiety?
- Social anxiety is a collection of negative physical, emotional, and mental responses related to connecting with others.
No one is immune to the threat of social anxiety. In fact, everyone feels it at one time or another. Sure, some people might experience it more than others—at different times, or when facing only certain people or situations—but regardless of how confident and self-assured you are, it is likely that you will feel threatened, intimidated, or overwhelmed during at least one social interaction in your life.
For some, however, this problem can occur so frequently and at such an extreme level that it becomes debilitating. They can’t speak up for themselves; they’re not able to excel in their careers; they avoid making deep personal connections; and they generally miss out on the most profound joys that life has to offer.
So, how do those of us who suffer from social anxiety go from happy, rambunctious children to subdued, frightened adults? We lose control over our perspective on the world.
In my years of counseling on this topic, I’ve found that the core hallmark of social anxiety is an overpowering preoccupation with what other people think.
Too many of us go through life mired in the fear of other people’s negative opinions. Whether we’ve actually heard insults from others or not, we create stories in our minds that convince us we’re not good enough. We tell ourselves that other people think we’re losers, and we believe it.
These detrimental thoughts can lead to any number of symptoms: brain fog, flight responses, tight chest, shortness of breath, sweaty palms . . . even stomach issues, physical ailments, and depression. In any case, it’s almost certainly keeping you from doing what you want to do and being who you want to be. It’s limiting your life severely.
If this sounds familiar, then I’m not at all surprised that you’ve joined me here today. You’ve come here seeking treatment for your social anxiety—you’re choosing to fight for what you want so that you can reclaim your life!
With that in mind, how do we typically treat social anxiety?
The current approach to social anxiety in Western psychology (I speak from experience, as my doctorate is in clinical psychology) is to combine medication with therapy.
- There may have been a time when an anxiolytic, such as Xanax or Valium, was prescribed at low doses for social anxiety. These are basically tranquilizers that help reduce the negative physical effects associated with general anxiety. The problem here is that most people will want to down a stiff drink to help them relax before a social event, and this is a definite no-no with anxiolytics.
- SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) deal more closely with the function of nerve cells in the brain that handle emotion. The idea here is to help restore the balance of serotonin in the brain so that messages can be delivered properly. Downsides to this approach include cost, side effects, and, again, negative drug interactions.
- Then there is therapy. Whether you visit a psychiatrist or a social worker, the most common type of treatment for social anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is because its success is supported by empirical data, and it provides clear, actionable steps to work through.
Long story short with CBT: change your behaviors and the way you think about yourself, and you change your experience.
This work, in my opinion, is a great jumping-off point. CBT focuses mainly on exposure therapy, which involves purposely immersing yourself in the situations that are most likely to trigger you. What I like about this approach is that it is the first step to ending avoidance: it forces you into a confrontation with your fears and, in theory, gradually desensitizes you to them by forcing you to confront them again and again.
Now for the big question: do these treatments work?
As someone who has extensively studied social anxiety, both in a standardized clinical setting and in my own work and research, my personal opinion is that the typical psycho-medical approach is insufficient to produce radical change.
Yes, I have absolutely drawn benefits from the therapeutic interventions that I’ve learned over the years—but in my experience, they produce only modest gains, reducing anxiety to a point where the person is able to function at just a satisfactory level.
Is that what you want?
Let me be honest, here: this is a condition from which I suffered, myself. I went through years of my life believing that I wasn’t good enough and stifling my hopes and dreams for an amazing life in the name of simply being able to get through each day.
That is no way to live.
Nobody was put on this planet to settle for “satisfactory.”
When I thought about my own life and what I wanted out of it, I couldn’t stand the idea of struggling through the next 60 years, medicated, still half-steeped in social anxiety, and in and out of therapy. I especially didn’t want to go through all of that just to end up “okay.”
And neither should you.
Though I couldn’t put a label on it at the time, what I was seeking was a rapid and radical transformation. I didn’t want to be that guy with social anxiety who was “managing.” I wanted a whole new experience; I wanted to feel free; I wanted real self-confidence.
At that point in my life, the quest for self-confidence became my personal mission. From that moment on, my motto was to try anything and everything:
“Whatever it takes, and whatever works.”
Whether the technique was empirically supported or not, I’d try it out, always on myself first. Once I’d found something that worked, I’d keep it—over time, I’d add to this list and distill the knowledge I’d gained so that I could pass it on to others. Soon, I began working with clients and seeing how the work translated. I then fine-tuned the work even further so that I could develop a universally transformative process.
The results have been astounding.
Since embarking on the mission to spread self-confidence like wildfire, I’ve had the joy of helping thousands of individuals just like you, who have had enough of settling for satisfaction.
How did I do it? By realizing that CBT is not enough.
If you really want groundbreaking transformation, exposure therapy is not enough. For example: in my program, Confidence University, I work with my clients through a process that I call the Ladder to Victory. This process involves a series of techniques, one building on the next, that have been proven to have a significant effect on both your overall confidence levels and general wellbeing.
- To start with, in this program, we address how you perceive yourself:
- Is your self-perception low, negative, limiting, or toxic?
- Do you see yourself as capable, loving, and worthy of respect?
- We also address how you treat yourself:
- Is your inner critic out of control?
- Have you conditioned yourself to be too quiet, nice, or invisible?
- Do you attack yourself emotionally?
If you experience chronic social anxiety at the level I’m used to working with, then you’ve probably been engaging in mental self-harm for so long that these habits are deeply engrained. You need to rip them out, roots and all.
But how is my method different from every other treatment you’ve seen? My approach is different because it incorporates total immersion.
Most people go to therapy once per week (or even less often). They sit for 50 minutes and talk about what is going on in their lives, and they mostly work on understanding their emotions. Pardon my French, but speaking from experience, that is not going to do shit.
That sort of work is not directly targeted at the root of the problem—it isn’t specific enough.
Sure, we can all use a bit of extra support—and that is what general therapy is great at addressing—but it’s not going to help you to radically upgrade your self-perception and transform your identity.
If you want to see intense results, then you need to do intense work.
You can’t just rely on medication to fix the problem, either. Don’t take my word for it: there are dozens of books on the subject of why drugs don’t fully and effectively treat anxiety (The Emperor’s New Drugs, to name one). Even when suitably paired with psychological treatment, these measures produce only modest results. Now, some people DO need to incorporate medication into their treatment schedule, and that is a personal matter for you to discuss with your doctor. It cannot and should not, however, be viewed as a one-and-done panacea.
It may be hard to hear this, but I’m being honest with you because I know how you are feeling, and I am passionate about helping you through this: the only way to work through this problem in a meaningful and lasting way is through hard work and immersion.
So, what does this active, immersive work look like?
To begin with, you have to be hungry for real change. I won’t lie to you: this work can be uncomfortable (we are trying to push you outside the edge of your comfort zone, after all), and you will not experience its benefits unless you commit, one hundred percent.
If you are serious about this transformation, though, I can give you one example of what a treatment program like mine would include:
- By engaging in all kinds of therapy dynamics (one-on-one, clinical, etc.), I found that the ideal environment is an immersive group experience in which you gain from additional support, guidance, and accountability. In recent years, I have used this model to develop the ultimate program for transforming social anxiety into bold authenticity and power.
- Through this program, we engage in a two-hour group immersion once per week—this includes learning techniques, practicing them, studying the effects, and discussing our progress.
- Every day, members also receive video messages with specific techniques or practices to work on for short bursts.
- Included in this practice are individual exercises for specific challenges, such as learning to speak up for yourself. I encourage students to practice these exercises as frequently as possible.
- Each member is paired with a partner to increase interaction, encouragement, and accountability—this helps to keep us on track to accomplish our goals and speed our results.
- Each person also creates their own personal goals per quarter. In my clinical work, I found that patients were frustrated that there never seemed to be a continuous progression from one step to the next. This practice remedies that issue by creating deliverables to which members must be held accountable.
- On top of that, this program involves longer immersion sessions, including half-day workshops and three-day online or live events that will kick your work into hyperdrive, actively guide you along the quickest path to success, and leave you in awe at your progress.
This is how you radically treat your social anxiety.
Anyone who tells you that your social anxiety is a genetic condition that you will deal with for the rest of your life has been drowning in the system for too long. This is a manageable and treatable state of mind that can be resolved FOR GOOD.
My first book wasn’t called How to Manage Social Anxiety for the Rest of Your Life with Drugs and Therapy—it was called The Solution to Social Anxiety.
Liberation is possible. You can make your social anxiety a thing of the past.
Take a moment to remember that this entire post started with the fact that EVERYONE experiences some degree of social anxiety. Even I still experience it in certain situations. You are not alone, and you are not the exception. The most important takeaway for me is that I used to experience social anxiety every single day, and I now go for huge spans of time (sometimes months) where I do not feel it AT ALL.
How did I do that? I flipped the script. Instead of waiting for social anxiety to find me, I went on the hunt for it and continue to do so every day. You can achieve the same thing. Do what makes you uncomfortable; try things that scare you; seek out the edge of your comfort zone, and do it every single day.
My biggest hope for you is that you leave this discussion with a sense of certainty that change is possible.
You have the power to shift your identity. You are going to make a change, starting today. You are going to improve your life and finally go after the things you really want.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the program mentioned above (through application only) or any of the other resources I offer, please visit DrAziz.com and find out if what I’m offering is the right fit for you.
In the meantime, please share your thoughts and questions below. What is your experience with social anxiety treatment? What have you been missing? What has really been working for you? Let’s all continue to learn as a community and lift each other up through engagement and shared experience.
Until we speak again, you have the courage to be who you are, and to know on a deep level, that you’re awesome.
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