The purpose of this behavior modification is to reduce symptoms of social anxiety. Methods used to modify the negative behavior associated with this disorder will be: positive thinking, progressive relaxation, and the use of a random webcam chat website on the Internet to develop interpersonal skills and an immunity to criticism. Social interactions will be compared on the basis of consistency of avoidance, the amount of overwhelming anxiousness, the amount of overwhelming awkwardness, and the rate of successful interaction. Previously recorded social interactions after being thoroughly analyzed, showed that a wider the range of social experience, and the use of positive thinking in combination with a relaxation technique dramatically increase the rate for a successful interaction.
The Modification of the Mental and Physical Symptoms of Social Anxiety
This study on the modification of several behaviors related to social anxiety disorder, sheds light on working methods to curb the physical and psychological symptoms associated with the disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2010), 15 million American adults age 18 and over, or about 6.8 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have social phobia. Social anxiety is not a cure overnight disorder; it takes much time, patience, and will power to successfully reduce the physical and psychological symptoms. There are multiple drugs for anxiety but they are only temporary fixes, ”In fact, large-scale, long-range (i.e., longitudinal) studies over the past decade have consistently shown cognitive – behavioral therapy to be the only therapy that can be dependably relied upon to help people overcome clinical anxiety disorders,” explains Thomas A. Richards, Ph.D. (2010). This is why it is very important to relearn ones thought process, and not force it upon ones self. According to Hobart and William Smith Colleges (2010), “Relaxation exercises are easy to learn and implement and can be remarkably effective in addressing stress, test anxiety, all kinds of phobias and other similar concerns,” by using relaxation techniques in the face of physical turmoil, it is possible to once again regain control over one’s mind and body.
What is Social anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, involves intense fear of certain social situations. Stress caused by social anxiety can be great and effects a person both mentally and physically. The following situations are often stressful for people with social anxiety disorder: interacting socially; in situations involving a large body of people; being teased or criticized; talking with important people or authority figures; attending parties or other social gatherings; interacting with the opposite sex; making phone calls; going on dates; performing on stage; being watched while doing something; making small talk; public speaking; interacting with peers in school and in class; being the center of attention; meeting new people; speaking up in class or in a meeting; and being in a group of people (Smith & Jaffe-Gill, 2010). Physical symptoms of social anxiety include: an elevated heart rate, muscle tension, muscle spasms, euphoria, sweating, dizziness, clammy hands, rapid breathing, dry mouth, nausea, trembling, blushing, and a lower speaking volume (Smith & Jaffe-Gill, 2010). Social anxiety causes multiple maladaptive emotional behaviors that when left unchecked can make everyday responsibilities difficult. Psychological symptoms may include: depression; low self-esteem; excessive self-consciousness; intense worry for days, weeks, or even months before an upcoming social situation; extreme fear of being watched or judged by others, especially people that you do not know; fear that others will notice that you are nervous; avoidance of social situations; and fear of acting in a way that will embarrass or humiliate yourself (Smith & Jaffe-Gill, 2010).
The avoidance associated with social anxiety can make it difficult for an individual to better ones self, and will in turn lead to a more severe case of anxiety. The constant fear of being exiled and humiliated can make it extremely difficult to interact with other people in a positive manner. The way society views fear as a weakness can add to the anxiety, even if one tries to immerse themselves in social situations, the realization that the person is in a great deal of fear and stress can cause a group to single out the person, causing an even greater deal of worry and apprehension. This effect can cause a vicious cycle that if left unchecked can diminish a person’s psyche.
Practicing Social Interactions from a Comfortable Environment
Simple methods can be used to repress the physical and psychological symptoms of social anxiety. The practice of training the mind to interact socially and to deal with criticism can be done effectively without any real social consequences by using a webcam chat roulette website such as (http://shufflepeople.woome.com/). This website takes time to find people worth talking to because some men find it amusing to masturbate on camera, but with a little determination one can easily experiment with conversational skills. The beauty of this method is that one is never in harms way, no matter what you say, no matter what the other persons reaction is, there are no consequences. If one feels uncomfortable they can press the next button and start fresh with another person. The website can be described almost like a social videogame, where the goal is to hold a conversation as long as possible, and once the game is lost it can simply be restarted. These interactions will never get physical and there is no community backlash because one will never talk to the person ever again, unless contact information is exchanged. This method would be used for people who are uncomfortable with their conversational skills, and who are looking to test new conversation topics without fear of social rejection.
Social anxiety can cause a great deal of muscle tension, which in turn may cause an excess of worry. The mind cannot relax unless the body is relaxed as well, “learning to relax lessens the power of negative emotions,“ (Harling & Nyrup, 2005). The practice of progressive relaxation can help an individual understand their otherwise unknown tensions, and help them to obtain a relaxed state. Progressive relaxation is the process of completely tightening individual muscle groups and then completely relaxing them. The process goes through each group of muscles until eventually the entire body is in a completely relaxed state ( Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 2010). Anxiety can cause the body to go Fight or flight mode, mistaking social interaction with a threat. The body does not turn off this reaction until one either conquers the fear or flees. The individual may assume that everybody around them knows they are in this state, and they may multiply the otherwise small threat. If one can learn to relax fully they will be able to stop the fight or flight response that causes great stress in their bodies. Even if a person is psychologically comfortable their psyche can be diminished if their physical being is in turmoil. This illustrates the relations ship between physical and psychological well being. This method will be used to stop some of the physical symptom associated with social anxiety by performing the progressive relaxation technique when one becomes stressed in social situations.
The Use of Positive Thinking
Negative thinking can be one of the main triggers of a social anxiety attack. Dr. Thomas A. Richards (2010) writes about changing bad habits by "restructuring" the mind by means of disputing irrational thoughts and beliefs and substituting rational thoughts and beliefs in their place. By thinking positive in the face of negativity the negative thoughts will eventually be replaced with positive thoughts. Negative thoughts will decrease ones self-esteem, reduce creativity, create a negative outlook on life, and make an individual magnify stressful situations to the point where it is almost impossible to function. If one thinks negatively they may have an apprehension to state what they truly feel. This apprehension makes it very difficult to reach goals set by ones self. The goal of this modification will be to restructure ones habits of thinking with the ultimate goal of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Dr. Thomas A. Richards (2010) explains how it is important, in the cognitive process, to turn the tables on automatic negative thinking slowly. “One should start by replacing automatic negative thoughts and make them rationally neutral,” explains Richards (2010),” this neutral thinking is gradually moved up, always in a step-by-step manner, to a more realistic level,” these slight changes make it less difficult to think positive, because the thoughts are not forced upon ones self. By slowly changing ones thought process the modifications become ingrained. Eventually the automatic negative thoughts will be replaced.
Thinking positive will change ones perception. Instead of expecting yourself to impress other people, it is the other people who should impress you. This change of role will make a person feel more significant. For example, if one is in a large group of attractive people, one should not assume that they are more attractive. By convincing oneself that it is them who is the most attractive person, the feeling of being unwanted and insignificant based on appearance is avoided. This can make it easier to break out of one’s shell and communicate with others more freely without feeling unworthy. This method will be used before and in the process of social interaction. It will be used before to prime ones mind for the challenge ahead, and it will be used during the interaction to keep one from giving up.
Results are based on the likelihood of the physical and psychological symptoms of social anxiety dominating a social interaction. A base line consisting of one week of normal social interaction will be compared with forty-nine days of modification. Several different methods will be tested in the certain social situations that bring about this anxiety. The effectiveness of each method will be measured by comparing similar conditions, one without using any new method and another similar situation using these new methods individually and in combination. The results will be used to find the most effective method of curbing the symptoms of social anxiety. The amount and the degree of symptoms will be compared to determine the success of each method. My journal was thoroughly analyzed for the following elements: excessive anxiousness or nervousness, excessive awkwardness, and the avoidance of social situations. Successful interactions were based on comfort, lack of worry, and conversation.
By using these methods the likelihood for a successful interaction more than tripled; the likelihood for anxiousness dominating ones thought process after the modification decreased by 12.5%; the likelihood of having an awkward interaction after the modification was only one third of the baseline rate; and the likelihood of avoidance was completely eliminated. Percentages are based on the modification analysis document.
By improving ones conversational skills in an environment devoid of threats, the feeling of awkwardness decreases dramatically. By learning acceptable conversations before hand and testing them in the field, one learns ways to distract other people from the awkwardness of the situation, which in turn makes things less awkward for ones own self. By combining the newly gained experience with positive thinking anxiousness and awkwardness are decreased dramatically. One must ignore the fight or flight response to successfully use these techniques. The fight or flight response can be diminished with a successful relaxation technique. By using the chosen relaxation method, also know as progressive relaxation, one can remain anonymous in their attempt of reaching a relaxed state. This method is great for relieving muscle tension and spasms, and is even more successful when used with positive thinking. This technique helped improve the rate of anxiousness by diminishing it before it got out of hand. By remaining relaxed feelings of awkwardness were dramatically reduced. By using other relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing in combination with progressive relaxation, it is possible to reach an even more relaxed state. By training the mind to stay positive and the body to remain calm it is possible to significantly improve ones life, and with enough experience it will become easy to interact in a normal fashion, making it possible to become successful in the modern world.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (2010, December 10). HWS: Relaxation Techniques.
Retrieved October 13, 2010, from Hobart and William Smith Colleges Web site: http://www.hws.edu/studentlife/counseling_relax.aspx
Harling, I., & Nyrup, M. (2005). Relaxation. In I. Harling, & M. Nyrup, Slieght of Mind (2nd
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Smith, M. ,., & Jaffe-Gill, E. M. (2010, December 10). Social Anxiety Disorder and Social
Phobia: SYMPTOMS, SELF-HELP, AND TREATMENT. Retrieved October 9, 2010, from Help Guide Web site: http://helpguide.org/mental/social_anxiety_support_symptom_causes_treatment.htm#authors
Richards, T. A. (2010, November 19). What is Compreensive Cognitive - Behavioral Therapy.
(The Social Anxiety Institute, Inc.) Retrieved October 9, 2010, from Social Anxiety Institute Web site: http://www.socialanxietyinstitute.org/ccbtherapy.html