Social Anxiety, Counselling and Christmas
- Counselling; A time to end and a time to begin1st March 2017
- Counselling and the art of giving back1st February 2017
- And this year I will…..1st January 2017
- Social Anxiety, Counselling and Christmas1st December 2016
- Couple Counselling – and just when is a discussion an argument1st November 2016
- Therapy, Mobiles and the Challenge of Choice1st October 2016
- Counselling, September and an Ellison’s Orange 1st September 2016
- Counselling – A room with a view1st August 2016
- Counselling: Choices and Decisions1st July 2016
- Counselling, Musee d’Art et d’Histoire and the Inevitability of Change1st June 2016
- Counselling and the art of Ambiguity. 1st May 2016
- Repetition; Normality or Folly. A Counselling Perspective1st April 2016
- Lions, Lambs and Therapy3rd March 2016
- Valentines Day, Counselling and the Great Unknown1st February 2016
- Janus Faced? The New Year, Counselling and Psychotherapy1st January 2016
- So which road do we travel this Christmas...1st December 2015
- Counselling, Guy Fawkes and Scapegoating1st November 2015
- Counselling Work and Narrative Therapy1st October 2015
- Counselling, Therapy and the end of Summer1st September 2015
- Wheat, Rye and Counselling1st August 2015
- Counselling and a break away3rd July 2015
- Counselling and the unexpected1st June 2015
- Counselling, Elections and our opportunity to choose1st May 2015
- Therapy, an April fool and the art of lost memory1st April 2015
- A Spring Clean Therapy and Counselling1st March 2015
- Couple Counselling & Valentines Day1st February 2015
- Nothing changes if nothing changes but this year can be different!1st January 2015
- Social Anxiety Disorder A Christmas Concern1st December 2014
- SAD & those dark Winter nights1st November 2014
- Existential Counselling A useful approach or pretentious jargon?1st October 2014
- Counselling, Therapy and a return to work1st September 2014
- Holidays, Counselling and your Shadow1st August 2014
- Couple Counselling and Choice1st July 2014
- Counselling, Jules Rimet and you A therapeutic perspective1st June 2014
- Counselling and Mayday A different take on a familiar story?1st May 2014
- Useful Therapy and not an April Fool1st April 2014
- Counselling, Floods and Pandoras Box1st March 2014
- Counselling and the art of being normal1st February 2014
- The New Year and a time for change?1st January 2014
- Christmas & Counselling The first Noel1st December 2013
- Counselling, Broomsticks & Halloween1st November 2013
- Couple Counselling and just what is a successful relationship?1st October 2013
- Counselling An issue of choice?1st September 2013
- Existential Counselling From Yalom to Basingstoke1st August 2013
- Counselling and the art of reframing1st July 2013
- Counselling - Change or Conformity?1st June 2013
- May Day Counselling - Celebration or Conflagration ?1st May 2013
- Summer Time & the Counselling Room1st April 2013
- Depression a useful diagnosis or an unhelpful label?1st March 2013
- An Emotional Timeline3rd February 2013
- Resolution, Revolution & Counselling1st January 2013
- Christmas, Carols & Counselling2nd December 2012
- Seasonal Affective Disorder and the SAD Season4th November 2012
- Psychotherapy & Counselling A Stoic Perspective17th October 2012
- 10th October 2012 - World Mental Health Day5th October 2012
- A First Meeting Explanation or Exploration?5th September 2012
- CBT, Mental Filtering and the Olympics19th August 2012
- I am not an angry man 14th July 2012
- Art, Counselling & Interpretation26th June 2012
- Murder Mysteries and Psychotherapy25th May 2012
- The importance of choice in therapy29th April 2012
- Reflections on Spontaneity6th April 2012
- A personal trainer for the mind 12th March 2012
December can be a sociable time whether with events such as family parties, functions at work or just a steady stream of invitations to ‘come down the pub’. The highlight of this social calendar is often on New Year’s Eve when there is that strong imperative to ‘do something’.
For many people this is a really fun time of year. For others however it can be a difficult time and one which is regarded with a sense of very real trepidation.
Some of those who regard this time of year with much apprehension have a clinical condition which is known as Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This is also recognised as Social Phobia. The condition is seen as a challenging emotional reaction to social situations and is probably far more widespread than many people realise. It can also be baffling to those who amongst us who are social animals and readily embrace the crowded room and bustling restaurant.
For every enthusiastic party animal there are those who view the onset of this social season with dismay. Time and emotional energy will be spent in finding or even manufacturing acceptable reasons to avoid the impending gathering. Like the Sword of Damocles a forthcoming event can loom large in the mind of the SAD sufferer and overshadow a time of the year that would otherwise be spent in celebration.
This fear and trepidation is very real. Those who struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder can view some work or family gatherings with the same trepidation that others may view a visit to the dentist or a forthcoming operation. It is debilitating and distressing. It can also be disruptive to relationships especially if partners simply do not understand the condition.
The origins of Social Anxiety Disorder are likely to be different for each individual. For some there may be the distant memory of an embarrassing event which occurred long ago in childhood but which remains seared into the memory. For others, the originating cause may lie far beyond the conscious memory leaving just an underlying feeling of social inadequacy.
There can also be issues of general social conditioning rather than specific events. Those who were brought up in a household where doors were always flung open wide and visitors made welcome, may have developed a natural inclination to engage with the world without ever having to work at developing a social side to their personality. For these people social competency is as natural as breathing.
Others may however have been brought up in a more closed and isolated environment. Perhaps there was a very small family circle, visitors were infrequent and the front door remained closed. In households where the friends of children were not encouraged and visits to relatives continually avoided, there may have been no opportunity for those social skills to develop.
In those situations it is perhaps understandable why the art of engaging in small talk was never developed or why the skills required to ensure that one is heard against a background of loud squabbling voices were not well honed. And when in life there are tasks ahead which will be difficult to complete there can be a natural tendency to avoid those situations.
If that avoidant behaviour continues and is carried over from childhood into teenage years and on into adulthood, it is perhaps more easy to understand how phobias can gradually develop.
So what is to be done? Is the SAD sufferer doomed to a life of isolation? Certainly not – although that is not to say that there can always be an easy transition from social avoidance to party time.
If social competences form a skills set, we can continue to learn new skills whatever decade of life we are in. Of course some new tasks may be easier to take up than others but a key starting point is that belief that change really is possible.
One approach to achieving change is to first acknowledge the extent of the challenges and to then consider what remedial action is possible and tolerable. Depending upon the severity of the anxiety level that first step may require support from a friend or perhaps a professional counsellor or therapist.
Often a first step can be to work through an understanding of why those concerns exist. Once the concern is normalised and understood the client can then move towards some form of graded exposure. This means mustering the courage to go and experience one of the forthcoming events which is being avoided. It is a challenging line to cross which is why good support can be so important.
And then perhaps just as in the workplace, it can be helpful to follow up that experience with a review. How was the experience against what was expected? What went well? What was uncomfortable and yet just about tolerable. Equally importantly, what was clearly too much and needed to be left until another day.
If it is possible to openly explore the experience with a trusted friend or partner who will support and not criticise, then perhaps there can be a growing realisation that lasting change is possible. And if it should be too difficult to talk with anyone in the family or friendship circle, that may also be where the therapist comes in.
It is important that this experiential work is seen in a realistic light. There is rarely an easy transition from being out in the cold and feeling ill at ease to suddenly becoming socially active. Difficult and challenging skills take time to master.
It is also important to maintain a sense of proportionality. This work is not about suddenly developing a very different personality. It is not about converting a recluse into a social butterfly. This work is about becoming able to engage and to become more comfortable in potentially difficult situations. It is about moving to a place where it is possible to participate even if that sense of feeling slightly uncomfortable, remains.
This type of work focusses on an easing of that fear, looking to achieve a containment of the concern and a reduction in the level of trepidation. We are looking to reach the point where it is possible to go out, perhaps with a partner and to participate rather than avoid even if socialising in a noisy gathering is never going to be the preferred way of spending a winter’s evening.
And the end result? This work is not about abolishing the safe zone but expanding it. If it is possible to stay with the process, this may become a gradual but helpful life change. And this type of change really can both occur and be long lasting.
The evidence for that belief in change? Well I suspect you and I have probably both lost count of the number of times we have heard a someone say after attending an event that ‘ I did not want to go – but now I am really glad I did’.
I wonder if sometime in the not too distant future those may become your comments!
added on 1st December 2016
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