Social Anxiety & Fear of Judgement

Are you worried about what others think?
Put off doing important things because others might think that you are weird?
Anxious about speaking your mind?
Think that others will judge what you do as meaningless?

I can help.


What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is an excessive concern or anxiety related to how other people think of us specifically people judging us. Typically the fears associated with social anxiety are that worry that people will think poorly of us or negatively of us. This includes fear of failure and being thought of as a loser, being thought of as being inferior, being thought of being weird or an outcast. In some cases we can be worried that others think that we are stupid, and when we really believe that we are stupid and it’s not uncommon for have depressive symptoms as well. Now, clinically speaking I often see social anxiety present with other anxiety disorders as well. Which is why I try to have anxiety-smashing tools rather than very specific clinical disorder tools. At the end of treatment, you’ll be able to select the tool that works for you to address the specific anxiety-provoking scenario. 


What people don’t realise is that social anxiety is a very treatable issue. Also, my goal in therapy is not to get rid of your social anxiety entirely, but rather give you the tools to dial it down, eliminate it for brief moments and/or approach your task with courage despite anxiety. It might not feel like it, but for most people, social anxiety is very useful in mild to moderate amounts. If you are a musician, or in other creative industries, social evaluation of your work and performance is very real and the well-managed anxiety of social judgment will drive you to be hone your craft and produce more work.


The thing is if we don’t exercise control over the amount of social anxiety we would like to have it can lead to paralysing distress.


So in therapy I never really try to get rid of your anxiety. That would be arrogant, because a fear system is a very useful motivation machine. Plus, your body and brain chose anxiety as a way to deal with a specific problem, and it was probably useful in that context. What I do is: I try to show you that there’s a dial and there is a set of mental tools and skills that will help adjust that dial or increase your tolerance of anxiety. Then if you still want to blast your anxiety away, we’ll work on that. It might sound a little abstract but there are also some mental tools that help you re-position your anxiety so that it is more productive with your goals and what you want to achieve. In fact, a lot of clients when they learn to use their anxiety, will choose not to eliminate it completely! Bottom line is there are always things that you can do at any particular anxious moment in order improve your ability to cope or re-calibrate your anxiety / fear system.


For those who want some specifics. Here’s an example

Mr K is anxious, and is struggling to go to university and go to work. He’s constantly concerned but what other people think. When he catches the bus, he’s worried if others think that his headphones are too loud and think that he is inconsiderate. He’s reluctant to run for the bus because he can’t tolerate when people are paying attention to him. He has valuable suggestions and opinions during team meetings but he gets so concerned about contributing. He has never asked his boss to take personal leave and agonises over what to say, often rehearsing and simulating his conversations (and even repeatedly rewrites his emails). He gets annoyed at his partner but holds back expressing his emotions, which sometimes leads to resentment towards his partner, and gets angry with himself. He wasn’t always this way, or it wasn’t always this severe. He frequently feels shortness of breath, sweaty palms and a sense of uneasiness. He’s avoiding parties and meeting new people.


What does a life after treatment for social anxiety could look like

Mr K has the mental space to think about himself and his own goals. He thinks about other people’s thoughts moderately, productively and deliberately. He can dial down his anxiety when he chooses to. He can catch the bus and enjoy the moments to himself as he listens to his favourite tracks without worrying about what other strangers think. He can tactfully request leave and assert his boundaries when his colleagues ask him to do work that isn’t his to do. He puts up his hand and offers his valuable insights to the company’s problems and has the skills to take on criticism and improve. He’s already eyeing on his next career step and is ready for his next performance review. At home, he’s closer to his partner because he can share his emotions honestly and isn’t afraid of upsetting them. He’s confident that even if he does, he has the communication skills to de-escalate a situation. He introduces himself to unfamiliar faces at a party even if he is a little uncomfortable or awkward, but he knows deep inside that the mild anxiety passes like a wave. He finds himself enjoying being lost in conversation without trying to think of something clever to say.


If this resonates with you, this is what social anxiety might look like before and after treatment in your life. Now if you’re content at this level of social anxiety, that’s fine. But if you start thinking if anxiety wasn’t such a big part of your life;  you would be able to enjoy life more, take more risks and do the things that you want to do. The good news is, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work hard at becoming more socially confident and pursue your goals despite anxiety, it only takes a handful of sessions to build the tools to dial down or blast your anxiety away. 

Visit my e-course (Overcoming Fear) or check out my youtube channel. There’s a step-by-step video guide for those who want to overcome social anxiety solo.

Online appointments only
(02) 9030-0301
Fax: (02) 8367-5120

If you’re not quite ready, visit my blog and you’ll get some helpful tips for managing your addictive habits, maintaining abstinence or controlled use.

Luke Vu is a registered psychologist practising in Maroubra Junction, supporting those who struggle with substance and online addictions. Call me or send me a message today.