Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder) is surprisingly common. It is estimated that around 15 million adults in the US alone suffer from this distressing condition.
Furthermore, around 36% of those with social anxiety live with it for at least 10 years before seeking any professional help. This is both sad and unnecessary as hypnotherapy treatment for Social Phobia is both effective and quick.
What exactly is Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder?
Now, most of us will experience some of the above symptoms when faced with a social situation that we find especially stressful.
However, for a person suffering from social phobia a lot of everyday situations can trigger the above responses. Apparently simple tasks and chores can evoke the dreaded fear and anxiety response, such as:-
- talking on the telephone
- Work interactions: especially those that involve confrontation or group meetings
- Social occasions such as drinks or parties.
- Using a public toilet.
- Writing or signing your name in front of others
- Eating or drinking in public
- Being introduced to new people
- Public speaking: Although a lot of people dread public speaking and have no anxiety over the other situations listed here.
The fear and anxiety underlying Social Phobia seems to be triggered by any social interaction that involves the person perceiving themselves to have been ‘put on the spot’ or being the centre of attention. There tends to be an underlying acute self-consciousness and often low self-esteem. There may be a disproportionate fear of being judged, making a social faux-pas or embarrassing oneself in public.
What tends to happen with Social Anxiety Disorder is that the sufferer will gradually start to actively avoid any of the social situations that trigger the dreaded fear response.
However, this only serves in the long run to increase the anxiety and fear. The brain will conclude that the situation being avoided is a genuinely dangerous one and the fear and anxiety associated with that situation will increase. This process is known within Neuro-Linguistic Programming as creating a Neural Pathway. The more that a neural pathway is reinforced the more the response to the perceived danger becomes automatic.
The whole role of Neural Pathway formations in Social Anxiety disorders means that both hypnosis and Neuro-linguistic Programming could both prove very beneficial in alleviating some of the distressing symptoms.
What Type of Hypnotherapy is best?
Deciding which type of hynotherapy is best for any individual depends, in some cases, on how deeply rooted the problem is.
Analytical hypnotherapy or hypno-analysis
Analytical hypnotherapy works with the idea that an individual’s personality is largely determined in the childhood years. The personality they develop during those years goes with them, largely unaltered, throughout the rest of their lives.
For many people, some aspect of their development is deeply affected in their early years, often through no fault of their own, and they can overdevelop certain personality and behavioural traits, such as a fear, habits or phobias, which will continue to affect them in their adult years.
Hypno-analysis aims to help a person not only reach, but hopefully resolve, the underlying subconscious emotional causes of any fear, anxiety or phobia and is closely connected to the field of psychotherapy. It aims at getting to the root core of the emotional issue and therefore, resolving it completely.
Because Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia often develops in the teenage years, the initial, underlying emotional issue may be very deeply ingrained and analytical hypnotherapy may help reveal the original cause of the symptoms.
Depending on how acute the Social Anxiety Disorder is, suggestion therapy is useful as both a relaxation technique and as an aid to help overcome negative thoughts and behaviours surrounding social situations.
Often suggestion hypnotherapy will be used to assist with problems that are habit based, such as smoking or nail biting. Even so, the way we think about a situation, and the fear that is invoked for some, can be seen as a kind of habitual thinking.
Suggestion Therapy involves entering a light hypnotic trance state whilst the therapist guides your subconscious mind using some very positive suggestions surrounding the problematic situation and how you feel and react to it.
Visualization and metaphor play key roles in this type of treatment. You will be guided through the stressful situation, such as an upcoming social event and imagine yourself acting and thinking more calmly and positively.
A little like a rehearsal, but as the subconscious does not separate real and imagined events, you are in effect facing your fears and practising different ways of being and thinking in a totally safe and relaxed environment.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Social Phobia
Social Phobia issues are mainly related to internal dialogue and emotions surrounding social situations. Where NLP comes into its own, is that techniques are taught that can help you become more aware of your own thought processes. Before changes can be made, the underlying issues need to be recognized. This is similar in some ways to the idea of Analytical hypnotherapy.
If you are aware of how the brain attaches meaning and emotion to information regarding past events than it stands to reason that it is possible to also change the way you feel about your memories.
Key internal symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder include negative internal voices and a process known as rumination, whereby uncomfortable or unpleasant memories are repeatedly played in your mind reinforcing the negative associations and fears.
There are many techniques and exercises within NLP that could be very beneficial to anybody suffering from Social Anxiety Disorders.
If you feel that you may be interested in NLP as a treatment, particularly for Social Phobia, it is strongly recommended that you work with a licensed practitioner initially to fully understand your own internal dialogue and pathways and to practise the exercises under trained guidance.