By Robin Bilazarian, LCSW
Social Anxiety Disorder is a crippling disease. 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. It limits casual, spontaneous interactions and prohibits them from attending social gatherings. They 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.
People with Social Anxiety Disorder approach benign social interaction with the same trepidation as facing a firing squad. Limited social interactions have a cumulative effect, so they do not develop competent social skills, are keenly aware of this, and thus feel even more vulnerable and defenseless.
I am working with two clients currently and several in the past using EFT. 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. 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 oneself, we used EFT to defuse this. 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 in to 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.
As many people with social anxiety cut off social interactions years ago, I believe good therapy uses EFT to remove the blocks, uses EFT to remove the fears of future interactions, and then gives them the new social skills to try.
I ask clients with this disorder to do homework daily, to 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 these into conversation: “so…can you believe the beautiful 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 five breaths and the “under the arm” for five 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.