By Robin Bilazarian, LCSW
Social Anxiety Disorder is a crippling disease. It is particularly difficult during the holidays with the added expectation of holiday get-togethers and family parties. Those afflicted
have debilitating panic attacks, racing heart, disorganized thoughts, fear of dying, losing control or fainting, embarrassing tremors and feel frantic in social situations.
They fear being scrutinized and judged harshly, seeing others as a social threat. They do not trust their bodies to be calm in these events.
They fear being scrutinized and judged harshly, seeing others as a social threat. (Ironically, they believe that others are judging them, but actually they are judging themselves.) They do not trust their bodies to be calm in these events.
It limits casual, spontaneous interactions and prohibits them from attending social gatherings. The holidays are a dreaded nightmare. They may fear any performance situation. Even riding the bus, eating in a restaurant or attending a movie can be feared. The anxiety can be specific as in public speaking or pervasive—severely limiting most social interaction. They approach benign social interaction with the same trepidation as facing a firing squad. Limited social interactions have a cumulative effect that they do not develop competent social skills, are keenly aware of this and thus feel even more vulnerable and defenseless. I am working often with clients with social anxiety. Initially, I explore their first or worst memory of when they felt this early in their life. I remember working with a delightful young woman who was too shy to date and did not see herself for the beauty she was. I begin work in the present of how they view themselves now, but then quickly go find where this inaccurate formulation occurred in their past experiences. I Said with many tears, she had accepted she would always be alone. She remembered being rejected by a boy she liked in middle school. After quickly discussing how a young boy may not be the most stable person to obtain a lifetime opinion of one's self, we used EFT to defuse this. EFT involves self-applied tapping on 10-12 acupressure points while stating the upset. Acupressure is incredibly relaxing. My clients often yawn or sigh (a sign they are moving out of the sympathetic nervous system of fight or flight and into the parasympathetic nervous system of rest and digest) and release hyperarousal and hypervigilance. Her laughing demeanor after EFT highlighted a definite and liberating shift had occurred. After clearing any past hurts and active memories, I use EFT on any and all remaining fears they have of social interactions in the future. This includes anxiety of walking into a party, (tune into your fear of walking into the party...); of smiling and saying hello to others, and of initiating small talk. With four petrified brides, I used EFT to clear and calm every aspect of their wedding, i.e. walking down the aisle with EVERYONE staring at them, saying their vows aloud, the father-daughter dance, etc. They had wonderful times at their weddings and continue to use EFT in their lives. Since they cut off social interactions years ago, I believe good therapy removes the blocks using EFT, removes the fears of future interactions using EFT and then, gives them the new social skills to try. They often never learned how to use small talk to ice breakers to begin conversations. I ask them to do homework daily to always be ready to initiate small talk (weather, sports, current events, ambiance in the room, movies, television) as a conversation starter. I teach them how to interject them into conversation "so...can you believe the cold weather we had, or the horrible weather they have had in Florida, etc." With many, I add the Performance Enhancement Protocol of having them picture themselves calmly interacting while holding "under the eye" for 5 breaths and the "under the arm" for 5 breaths and repeating these two points until fully confident. Using this formula, my recent client was another young woman stuck in a going nowhere 7 year relationship and too fearful of being alone to move on. She has now broken up with him, used internet dating safely and is dating seriously the fourth person she met –all within 3 months of ending her unhealthy relationship.
I use EFT in both a private practice setting and as an EAP counselor with all types of staff in a regional trauma hospital. By the way, it works for so many other issues including grief,
anger management, phobias (flying, public speaking, driving), traumatic events, and stress. It also works in pain
management, the beginning problem in this horrible opioid epidemic. See my web page (RobinEFT.net) for a visual demonstration of EFT and another similar technique called Heart Assisted 3 x 3. Also available in my book, Emotional Smarts-60 Stress Management & Communication Techniques for Emotional Freedom (Amazon).