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Social Anxiety/Performance Anxiety 

Social Anxiety and Performance Anxiety Counselling, Therapy and CBT in St Albans/Hertfordshire and Online

Many people feel shy and anxious in certain social situations, such as public speaking or meeting new people. However, when these feelings of anxiety become extreme and are centered around the fear of being negatively judged in social settings, it may be diagnosed as social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia. Individuals with SAD can experience intense anxiety even when they are alone, such as worrying excessively about upcoming social events or analysing past social interactions. Despite recognising that their fears are irrational, they persist. The level of anxiety associated with social anxiety disorder can be debilitating and significantly impact various aspects of one's life, including school, work, and relationships. It's important to know that you don't have to face this struggle alone—therapy for social anxiety has proven to be highly effective.

What are the Triggers and Symptoms of Social Anxiety?



Individuals with social anxiety often experience heightened levels of anxiety in various situations, such as:

  • Public speaking or giving presentations

  • Speaking on the phone, especially when they feel others might be listening

  • Eating in public

  • Meeting new people

  • Returning items to a shop while shopping

  • Interacting with figures of authority

  • Participating in group discussions or having one-on-one conversations

  • Using public toilets

Thoughts and Feelings

Individuals with social anxiety commonly experience the following thoughts and emotions:

  • Intense fear of being the centre of attention

  • Fear of being judged negatively or seen as incompetent by others

  • Fear of embarrassment or humiliation in social settings

  • Concern about others noticing physical signs of anxiety, like blushing or sweating

  • Occurrence of panic attacks, characterised by sudden and intense anxiety

  • Fearful anticipation of social events, leading to heightened anxiety

  • Overthinking and analysing past social situations, often accompanied by self-criticism regarding anxiety experienced

Physical Symptoms

These distressing thoughts and feelings can give rise to uncomfortable physical sensations, including:

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Sweating

  • Shaking/trembling

  • Difficulties concentrating/dizziness leading to difficulties finding words

  • Blushing

  • Nausea

  • Muscle tension


As a result of experiencing these distressing thoughts and feelings, along with unpleasant physical symptoms, individuals may choose to avoid anxiety-provoking social situations altogether. Alternatively, they may confront the situation but employ certain "safety behaviors" to help them cope. Some common safety behaviors include:

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Redirecting attention away from oneself

  • Positioning oneself close to an exit

  • Engaging in excessive drinking or drug use

  • Engaging in simultaneous activities while conversing to reduce intensity, such as fidgeting with objects in their hands

It's important to note that these symptoms can vary in intensity and may increase during times of stress or in anticipation of challenging social events.

 What Causes Social Anxiety?

The development of social anxiety is influenced by a combination of factors, including biological, societal, and environmental elements. While biological factors like genes and brain chemistry can contribute to the predisposition for social anxiety, societal and environmental factors also play a significant role. Some environmental factors that can contribute to the development of social anxiety are:

  1. Parental Influence: Parents who are overly critical, offer little emotional support, are overprotective, and place excessive importance on self-presentation and manners can contribute to the development of social anxiety in their children. Such parenting styles may create a fear of judgment and a heightened self-consciousness in social situations.

  2. Abuse, Discrimination, Bullying: Experiencing abuse, discrimination, or persistent bullying can have a profound impact on an individual's self-esteem and sense of safety. These negative experiences can foster social anxiety by creating a fear of judgment, rejection, or further humiliation in social interactions.

  3. Humiliation and Embarrassment: Previous experiences of being humiliated or embarrassed, especially in public settings, can leave lasting emotional scars. These experiences can lead to heightened self-consciousness, a fear of repeating the humiliation, and a strong desire to avoid similar situations in the future.

  4. Limited Social Contact: Insufficient opportunities for social interaction and limited exposure to different social settings can hinder the development of social skills and confidence. Without adequate practice and experience in social situations, individuals may struggle to navigate and feel comfortable in social environments, contributing to social anxiety.

  5. Family Conflict: Growing up in an environment characterised by frequent family conflict, tension, or dysfunctional relationships can contribute to social anxiety. Family conflicts can create a stressful and unpredictable atmosphere, leading to a heightened sense of anxiety and difficulty in forming secure social connections outside the family.

It's important to note that while these environmental factors can contribute to the development of social anxiety, each individual's experience is unique. Different combinations and degrees of these factors may impact each person differently, and additional factors may also contribute to the development of social anxiety.

When Should I Get Help For Social Anxiety?

If you find yourself grappling with social anxiety and its adverse effects on various aspects of your life, seeking therapy for social anxiety can be highly beneficial. Seeking support from a social anxiety therapist becomes particularly crucial when you find yourself confronted with the following circumstances: you are facing significant distress due to it, it is having a detrimental impact upon your life, you are struggling to cope and it is persistent/worsening.

Treatment for Social Anxiety

Effective treatment options exist for social anxiety, and one of the recommended approaches is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I am able to utilise CBT techniques as part of your treatment for social anxiety. Through CBT for social anxiety, you will gain a deeper understanding of the underlying causes and factors that contribute to your social anxiety, as well as the factors that maintain it over time. It can be helpful for the focus to be on identifying and addressing troublesome thought patterns and behavioural patterns that contribute to your anxiety, while also introducing you to helpful relaxation strategies.

In addition to therapy, medication can also be beneficial for social anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed medications that can help alleviate symptoms. If you are interested in exploring medication as a treatment option, I recommend discussing it with your general practitioner (GP) who can provide guidance and assess whether it is suitable for your specific situation.

What are the Benefits of Therapy for Social Anxiety?

Therapy for social anxiety has proven to be effective and has been associated with a range of positive outcomes, including:

  1. Decreased anxiety: Therapy helps in reducing anxiety levels related to social situations. Through various therapeutic techniques, individuals learn to manage their fears, challenge negative thoughts, and develop coping strategies to alleviate anxiety symptoms.

  2. Reduced depression: Social anxiety often co-occurs with depression. Therapy addresses both anxiety and depression symptoms, leading to a reduction in depressive feelings and improving overall emotional well-being.

  3. Enhanced confidence: As therapy progresses, individuals with social anxiety experience a boost in self-confidence. They gain a better understanding of their strengths, learn effective communication and social skills, and develop a more positive self-image, leading to increased self-assurance in social interactions.

  4. Improved quality of life: With reduced anxiety and increased confidence, therapy positively impacts an individual's overall quality of life. It allows individuals to engage in social activities, form meaningful relationships, pursue personal goals, and enjoy a fuller and more satisfying life.

  5. Greater calmness and relaxation: Therapy equips individuals with relaxation techniques and coping strategies that promote a sense of calmness and relaxation in social situations. These skills help individuals manage anxiety symptoms, control their stress response, and navigate social interactions with greater ease.

How Long does the Treatment for Social Anxiety Last?

The duration of therapy for social anxiety can vary depending on individual factors and the severity of the condition. While some individuals with milder social anxiety may experience significant improvement in around six sessions, others may require additional sessions to acquire a broader range of tools and strategies for long-term management and relapse prevention.


According to guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), a recommended range of 14-16 sessions is typically advised for therapy to be highly effective in addressing social anxiety. These additional sessions allow for a more comprehensive exploration of underlying causes, deeper learning of coping mechanisms, and sustained progress towards recovery.


Each person's therapy journey is unique, and the number of sessions required may vary. The therapy process should be tailored to individual needs and progress, ensuring that adequate time is dedicated to addressing specific challenges and fostering lasting change.


Social Anxiety Treatment in St Albans/Hertfordshire & Online

Whether you are seeking therapy for Social Anxiety in the St Albans/Hertfordshire area or prefer online sessions, I am here to provide the support you need. Together, we can work towards equipping you with effective strategies to manage your symptoms and disrupt the harmful cycles that perpetuate this condition. By implementing these strategies, you can regain balance and find fulfillment in your life once again. Remember, you don't have to face social anxiety on your own. I am here to help you every step of the way.

Helpful Social Anxiety Resources:

If you would like social anxiety treatment in St Albans/Hertfordshire or online please email me at or complete the webform below.


St Albans Rooms

21 Victoria Street

St Albans



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