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    Treating Social Anxiety with EMDR


    I’m sure many of you have heard someone say that humans are social creatures. Yet for those with social anxiety (formerly known as “social phobia”), these daily social interactions can feel suffocating. The fear of judgment, rejection, or embarrassment can cast a shadow over even the most mundane of social encounters, making everyday interactions like navigating a minefield. But there is hope! Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy represents a powerful option for treatment.

    In this blog, we’ll explore how EMDR therapy offers a powerful path to healing for those grappling with social anxiety.

    Understanding Social Anxiety: The Silent Struggle

    Social anxiety is often misunderstood or trivialized as mere shyness or nervousness in social situations. In fact, for many, it’s an often overwhelming fear of scrutiny or evaluation by others leading to intense anxiety and avoidance behaviors. From small gatherings to public speaking, social anxiety has the power to cause extreme psychological distress while at the same time hindering relationships, career opportunities, and personal growth.

    Historically, CBT Has Been the Answer

    A woman sits next to a window while looking out with a pensive expression. This could represent the isolation felt from social anxiety that EMDR therapy in Palm Beach, FL can help you overcome. Learn more about online anxiety treatment in Delray Beach, FL or contact an EMDR therapist in Palm Beach County, FL today.The most common psychotherapy approach to treating social anxiety has historically been Cognitive-Behavior Therapy which, as described by its name, attempts to change the thoughts and behaviors that fuel the anxiety. Behaviorally speaking, this often involves the process of habituation where people seek to desensitize the negative feelings of social situations by exposing themselves to them in gradually increasing amounts. Over time a person can challenge themselves to face their fears, causing the fear to lessen and lessen over time. Think of a person who joins Toastmasters to get over a fear of public speaking, which is very brave! Unfortunately, it is very hard for many to do this, instead resorting to avoidance of the feared situations altogether.

    Cognitively-speaking, CBT attempts to identify unhelpful and often irrational automatic thoughts and replace them with more helpful, adaptive thoughts. For example, instead of thinking “they are going to judge me” or “this is going to be terrible”, which contributes to feeling more anxious, they might come up with alternate thoughts such as “no one is judging me” or “this may actually be fun!” which can decrease how bad they feel. Unfortunately, many people feel that this only helps somewhat in the moment but it doesn’t counteract the immense anxiety they feel deep down in their bodies. And, of course, many of these people already know that their unhelpful thoughts are irrational, so coming up with more rational ones doesn’t really change the situation.

    The Promise of EMDR Therapy for Social Anxiety

    At its core, social anxiety often stems from past experiences that have left deep emotional scars. These experiences may include childhood bullying, social rejection, or traumatic social encounters. EMDR therapy offers a unique approach to addressing this condition by targeting these underlying traumas and rewiring the brain’s response to social triggers.

    A close up of four colored rocks with the letters EMDR on them. Learn more about EMDR therapy in Palm Beach, FL and how and EMDR therapist in Palm Beach County, FL can offer support. Search for online anxiety treatment in Delray Beach, FL today.

    How EMDR Works: Rewiring the Brain’s Response

    EMDR Therapy is grounded in the belief that past traumatic experiences continue to exert an influence on present behavior and emotions. By engaging in a structured process of bilateral stimulation – typically through eye movements, taps, or sounds – EMDR therapy helps people process and reframe these past adverse experiences. During EMDR sessions, clients are guided to recall distressing memories while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation. This process allows the brain to reprocess the memories somehow, transforming them from sources of fear distress, and embarrassment into neutral or even positive experiences. Over time, the intensity of the emotional response diminishes, and individuals find themselves better equipped to navigate social situations with confidence and ease.

    In treating social anxiety with EMDR, the goal is to directly address the underlying root causes by targeting the relevant past traumatic experiences that fuel the anxiety. These can range from memories of being bullied or teased in school, transitioning to a new school as a kid and not knowing anyone, or cringy and embarrassing past moments of awkwardness. As these negative memories are reprocessed, individuals can experience a decrease in anxiety as well as in their avoidance behaviors, allowing them to progressively confront and overcome their social fears. As the grip of social anxiety loosens, individuals often find themselves better equipped to navigate social interactions and make meaningful connections, while pursuing opportunities for personal and professional growth.

    Here are some examples of memories that are commonly reprocessed when treating social anxiety:

    • Memories of being laughed at or feeling humiliated
    • Memories of having a hard time fitting in such as going to a new school or after moving to a new area
    • Freezing during a public presentation
    • Cringy times when you might have felt embarrassed 
    • Being made fun of or criticized as a kid
    • Social rejections or times when you were excluded from groups

    Begin EMDR Therapy in Palm Beach, FL 

    Social anxiety may feel like an insurmountable hurdle, but with the right support and therapeutic intervention, healing is within reach. EMDR therapy offers hope for those struggling with this condition to break free from its limitations. If you or someone you know is grappling with social anxiety, consider exploring the possibilities that EMDR therapy may offer on the journey toward healing with a caring therapist. You can start your therapy journey with Mangrove Therapy Group by following these simple steps:

    Other Services Offered with Mangrove Therapy Group

    EMDR therapy isn’t the only service offered by Mangrove Therapy Group. We are happy to offer support with a variety of mental health services including trauma and PTSD/C-PTSD, substance use disorders, eating disorders, body image issues, anger management, anxiety, low self-esteem, personality disorders, and much more. Please feel free to learn more about how we can support you. We also offer support with addictions such as process addictions, grief and loss, “Failure to Launch” syndrome, CBT, and DBT. Feel free to learn more by visiting our blog or FAQ page to learn more today!