Is it possible to cure your social anxiety on your own? Without seeing a therapist or a doctor?
The answer is: yes and no.
Yes, people have overcome their social anxiety on their own (like myself).
However, it’s not always the right solution. In this article, I’m going to explain the pros and cons of trying to tackle social anxiety by yourself. I’ll show you when it’s okay to do, and when you should really seek professional help.
The Danger Of Asking This Question
Let me ask you something…
WHY do you want to overcome your social anxiety on your own to begin with?
- Is it because you’re afraid of picking up the phone to set an appointment?
- Are you afraid to share your deepest problems, shortcomings and secrets with a stranger?
- Are you scared of how anxious going to see a professional about your problem will make you?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’re already heading in the wrong direction.
Now, I can understand your fear.
Back when I had really bad social anxiety, even getting a haircut where I had to make small talk with the hairdresser for 15 minutes was excruciatingly painful and awkward. I couldn’t even imagine talking to someone about my feelings, insecurities and social anxiety for an hour or more.
So I know how scary the IDEA of talking to someone about your social anxiety is. That’s the craziest part of this problem: your social anxiety itself makes it extremely hard to get help for it!
But here is a reality check:
You Will Not Overcome Your Social Anxiety Without Other People
An important part of the process of overcoming SA is doing things you are uncomfortable about. By talking to people and sharing more of yourself over time, you will slowly unwire the “fight or flight” response in your brain. And over time you will feel less anxious around people. You’ll sweat, shake, tremble or blush less.
One thing’s for sure: you can’t do exposure for social anxiety without other people. You will have to get out of your house and interact with those other talking monkeys you see out the window.
Can you talk to other people on your own? Yes, absolutely.
However, a therapist can offer a structured environment to get started with this process more easily. A therapist can also help you stay motivated in facing your fears — you’ll probably take more action than you would on your own to avoid disappointing your therapist. Also, if you take group therapy for social anxiety, then you are getting exposure and practice talking in a more high pressure environment with many people listening.
However, having said all this about exposure, let me add…
You Will Also Not Overcome Your Social Anxiety ONLY Through Exposure
I went to elementary school, high school and university in Canada for years, and my social anxiety only seemed to get worse and worse with time. Even though I was surrounded by people:
- My conversation skills didn’t get better (if anything I just became more quiet and awkward),
- I had no friends or social life,
- My self esteem just got worse, and
- I even had periods of depression to add to my SA.
So this much is clear:
Just being around people will not make your social anxiety go away on its own.
You also have to change the way your mind works from the inside out. That’s what finally cured my extreme shyness, quietness and nervousness around people.
How can you do this?
Well, if you go see a therapist, they will teach you the standard “cognitive behavioral therapy” approach to changing your thinking. This usually involves writing down your thoughts when you’re feeling anxious. Then you analyze your thoughts to see which ones are unrealistic by comparing them to common thinking errors. (Like black and white thinking, catastrophizing, etc.)
To be honest, that “standard” approach never really appealed or worked well for me.
Now, don’t get me wrong…
I’m sure it’s 1000% better than doing nothing about your socially anxious mind… but most people (therapists included) only recommend it because they don’t know of any other options. This is the tool they learned in school, and when all they have is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail… including depression, anxiety, sleeping difficulties and alcohol addiction.
Let me save you a few months of dry, boring and repetitive thought journaling in one paragraph:
Social anxiety starts with a negative and distorted self image. You think there’s something wrong, bad or inferior about you, that you need to hide from other people.
The root fear in social anxiety is a fear of self exposure. You are afraid that other people will notice the secret thing about you which is unattractive… so you do everything possible to shrink away from the spotlight or avoid people altogether. Your secret thing could be your ugliness, your lack of friends, your boring and awkward conversation skills, etc.
So the cure to social anxiety really is about fixing your negative and distorted self image. And I’ve found that people who have social anxiety only have a few main sources of this negative self image, which can be fixed with a few new insights. My insight-based approach to helping others overcome social anxiety really gets to the root cause of social anxiety, which is why I receive so much great feedback from my readers every week.
If you believed in your deepest core that who you are is valuable and worthwhile to other people… then your anxiety and fear about getting other people’s acceptance and approval will go away. Imagine it this way: if you were the most good looking, popular, charismatic, well respected and richest person in the world… would you have social anxiety?
“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller
Is it possible to overcome social anxiety on your own?
However, seeing a professional who can offer you a structured environment, unconditional acceptance and motivation to face your fears can speed the process up a lot. Be warned though: many of these professionals will just give you the “standard” approach to changing your socially anxious mind… which sometimes works… But it isn’t nearly as effective as it should be because it’s usually not customized to your unique problems, unique challenges and unique root cause of your social anxiety.
I hope you now understand the benefits and downsides to attempting to cure social anxiety on your own. I recommend you check out my article on the 10 best books for social anxiety if you are looking for the best self help advice to overcoming this problem. Even if you do choose to overcome social anxiety without seeing a therapist or doctor in-person, you will still need some type of guidance on your journey to help you change the way your socially anxious mind works.