Talk It Out: Social Anxiety And Psychotherapy

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Image credit: photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash.

A communications professor of mine once said that more people are afraid of public speaking than they are of death. For those who suffer from social anxiety or social phobia, the fear of speaking, eating, or even being present in a social setting can be a source of great discomfort.

Luckily, recent research shows that psychotherapy has a notable effect of social anxiety. In fact, it’s so significant that the results appear on pictures of the brain.

Social anxiety – or social phobia – is rooted in an overwhelming fear of interacting with others. Those who suffer from social phobia believe that others are judging them harshly, and have a poor self-image.

They often fear:

  • Public speaking.
  • Using public restrooms.
  • Presenting ideas to others.
  • Socializing in groups.

The fear that arises in social situations can be debilitating to someone who is socially phobic.

The study [which can be viewed here] followed several individuals with social anxiety before, during, and after several psychotherapy sessions.

All the subjects received EEGs, which show electrical communications in the brain. High levels of anxiety appear as increased activity in the brain, and appear on these EEGs.

This way, the researchers could monitor any changes in the brain activity regarding anxiety over the course of treatment.

What The Researchers Found Was Enlightening

When comparing the EEGs taken before counseling, researches noted that anxiety-related brain activity was dramatically decreased after treatment.

The activity in the brain scans matched both the patient and the therapist’s report of less anxiety. Even when the patient was asked to give an impromptu speech on a politically intense topic, scans showed less anxiety than previously experienced.

As the therapist and patient worked through the anxiety, the brain reacted to the treatment to make lasting tangible changes.


Psychotherapy has been proven as an effective way of managing and diminishing anxiety. If you or someone you love suffers from anxiety, there is hope. Contact us at (516) 221-9494 for more information today.

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