The Wall Street Journal published a great article about Georgiann, a teenager who overcame her social anxiety through exposure and practice at the Mayo Clinic. Here are a few excerpts.
- The high-school sophomore overcame a crippling case of social anxiety as a patient in the Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Therapists gradually exposed Georgiann to things she feared most and taught her parents to act as "exposure coaches" rather than enable Georgiann to avoid fearful situations.
- When parents help children to escape from feared situations, anxiety symptoms may worsen and children frequently become more impaired, says Stephen Whiteside, a Mayo pediatric psychologist.
- "Kids who avoid fearful situations don't have the opportunity to face their fears and don't learn that their fears are manageable," he says.
- Researchers at Mayo, Virginia Tech and other institutions are finding that slowly exposing children to the things they are anxious about, at an early point in treatment, can be highly effective in helping them overcome anxiety.
- Therapist Michael Tiede worked with Georgiann in group sessions and one on one to help her gradually do things she was afraid of and, as she says, "put myself out there." Mr. Tiede and Georgiann say she shared her goals with the group each week, whether it was agreeing to meet friends at the mall, joining in a conversation or even just wearing her hair differently one day to see that it wouldn't attract undue attention.
- "It builds momentum and they do the next thing, and the next thing, and then it is not so hard anymore," Mr. Tiede says.
Consider working with an anxiety specialist who can help you develop an individualized plan and can guide you through a desensitization process. You'll have a higher success rate working with a professional (they know all the twists and turns and can guide you), but you can also do this on your own.