The Premier Resource
for Resolving Social Anxiety
While social anxiety is a major mental health challenge impacting millions, the disorder has proven to be a major challenge for the mental health community. At least 15 million or 6.8% of the U.S. population suffer from social anxiety. An Anxiety Disorders Association of America survey found that “36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 years of more before seeking help and that it is equally common among men and women, typically beginning around age 13.” Clinical experience at Berent Associates, where thousands of social anxiety sufferers of all ages have been treated since 1978, suggests that the etiology of the disorder is in place far earlier than age 13. One piece of evidence for this analytic is the statistic that selective mutism, which is an extreme form of social phobia identifiable at an early age, impacts approximately 7 out of 1,000 children.
The primary reason that social anxiety is so challenging to the mental health profession is that it is driven by the underlying emotions of shame, embarrassment, and humiliation. Most sufferers do not seek help, making it the quintessential “disease of resistance.” As a defense mechanism, sufferers learn to detach or disconnect from thoughts and feelings associated with anxiety. The detachment leads to avoidance and repressed emotion, which recycles negatively. Avoidance is a phobia and can become ingrained as a personality disorder. The two primary ways to identify the severity of the problem are by the degree of avoidance and the degree of emotional and physical panic.
What distinguishes social anxiety from other anxiety disorders is the dynamic of performance. That said, social anxiety is co-morbid with other anxiety disorders primarily Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, which includes perfectionism, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Other substantial co-morbidity includes avoidant and dependent personality, dysthymia, substance dependence, and technology over dependence.
While there are numerous manifestations of social anxiety, including performance anxiety, fear of public speaking, selective mutism, erythrophobia (fear of blushing), hyperhidrosis, fear of being noticeably nervous, school phobia, dependent personality, and pervasive social avoidance, there are two basic types of individuals who have the problem.
These are people with “initiative” and those without “initiative.” Initiative does not mean ability. It means the motivation to start up or motivation to get help. When an individual of any age does not have initiative, treatment begins with parents, given the avoidance-dependence dynamic.
To really understand the phenomenon of social anxiety it is important to understand its” components. Think of F.A.T.E.: (See Figure 1).
There is a tendency with common existing therapies to fit social anxiety disorder into the narrow confines of one specific approach. The Berent Treatment Method for Social Anxiety is based on adapting treatment to the specific needs of social anxiety. The treatment architecture includes transactional analysis-based mind state training, core work based on the Sarno method, and the paradoxical technique of adrenaline control. Very importantly, the method is customized for the individual with and without initiative. Click here to access our free library of clinical interviews, which may be the most documented evidence of successful treatment for social anxiety anywhere.