Archive for Social Anxiety

Does Halloween Make You Want to Hide?

Halloween’s Growing Popularity Can Lead to Social Anxiety

Halloween Yorkie Social AnxietyHalloween used to be primarily a kid’s holiday. In recent years, Halloween has transformed from a kid-centric holiday into an $8 billion a year industry for everyone. Two in three adults believe Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids. Many companies allow, and even encourage employees to wear costumes. Halloween’s creep also extends to pets. Americans will spend $370 million on pet costumes this year, with pumpkin (13%), devil (7%), and hot dog (6%) among the most popular. Halloween is now the second-biggest decorating holiday of the year — right behind Christmas.

Common Worries About Halloween

All this pressure to celebrate Halloween can make some folks downright anxious, especially if you suffer from social anxiety. Besides the fear of ghosts, witches and goblins, adults with social anxiety may suffer from other fears such as:

  • Worry and indecision about whether to wear a costume and, if so, what to dress up as
  • Fear of being judged for the type of costume you choose
  • Depression about not being invited to a Halloween party and thinking that everyone else is having fun except you
  • Social awkwardness if you do go to a Halloween party, such as not knowing what to say, being uncomfortable with small talk or comparing your costume to others
  • Anxiety about opening the door for trick-r-treaters and having to interact with neighbors and strangers

Easing Your Social Anxiety About Halloween

Halloween Ghosts Social AnxietySo what can you do this year to help ease the Halloween jitters?

First, remember Halloween is about fun. No one really cares what you dress up as. Most people are more focused on showing off their own costume than what you are wearing. Since everyone is so focused on their own costumes and being spooky and silly, they are less likely to care whether you talk or what you say anyway.

Second, remember many people enjoy staying home and watching scary movies on Halloween or just doing nothing and relaxing. Take the pressure off yourself if you do end up spending the evening alone. Plan some fun and enjoyable activities for yourself.

Third, if you stay home and don’t feel like opening the door, you can leave a bowl of Halloween candy on your doorstep with a friendly message so your neighbors know you care. Or you can push yourself to face your anxiety, open the door, and hand out candy. You can say “trick-r-treat” and smile. Or just make a pleasant comment about the kids’ and adults’ costumes.

How to Get Help for Social Anxiety in San Jose/Saratoga and Sacramento/Roseville

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center in Silicon Valley and Sacramento Valley specializes in social anxiety therapy and counseling with adults, children and teenagers. Call us in Saratoga at (408) 384-8404 or in Roseville at (916) 778-0771 or Click to send an email for more information on how we can help you or your family members overcome your social anxiety.

Silicon Valley and Sacramento Valley Communities We Serve

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley offers evidence-based therapy for Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Eating Disorders near the following Silicon Valley/San Jose communities:

San Jose Therapy CounselingSaratoga Therapy CounselingLos Gatos Therapy Counseling Monte Sereno Therapy Counseling • Cupertino Therapy CounselingCampbell Therapy CounselingMountain View Therapy CounselingLos Altos Therapy CounselingSunnyvale Therapy CounselingSanta Clara Therapy Counseling

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Sacramento Valley offers evidence-based therapy for Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Eating Disorders near the following Sacramento Valley and Sierra communities:

Sacramento Therapy CounselingRoseville Therapy Counseling • Rocklin Therapy Counseling • Granite Bay Therapy Counseling • Lincoln Therapy CounselingFolsom Therapy Counseling • Citrus Heights Therapy Counseling •  El Dorado Hills Therapy Counseling • Loomis Therapy CounselingGrass Valley Therapy Counseling  • Auburn Therapy Counseling

CONTACT US
Saratoga: (408) 384-8404
Roseville: (916) 778-0771
Click to send an email

Introversion: Quiet Revolutionaries

What is Introversion?

Gentle GandhiIntroversion is “the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life.” According to the Myers-Briggs inventory, introverts are more likely to think, “I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.”

Introversion vs. Shyness and Social Anxiety

While studies have estimated that introverts are one-third to one-half of the U.S. population, being social and outgoing is prized in our culture so it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. Mistaking introversion for shyness is a common error. Introversion is different from shyness and social anxiety. Introverts don’t necessarily feel shy or anxious in social situation, although some do. Introverts need downtime to recharge but many introverts function quite well in social situations and leadership roles.

Bias Against Introversion is Slowly Improving

Quiet RevolutionAccording to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, “Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to “pass” as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.”

Due to the popularity of Cain’s book, “Now people think it’s cool to be an introvert,” said Amy J. C. Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School quoted in a recent New York Times article about Cain’s Quiet Revolution. She added that at least half her students tell her they have read Ms. Cain’s book. “I love that the students are no longer ashamed,” Cuddy said. It seems Brian R. Little, a professor of psychology at Cambridge University, quoted in a New York Times Op Talk column, agrees, “You could almost say that introversion has become the new cool…there has been a recognition of the quiet strengths of introversion.”

Famous Introverts Who Have Changed The World

Many highly influential engineers and scientists, politicians, business people, actresses, actors and comedians, athletes, singers and musicians, movie producers and directors, writers and others in all fields are introverts. Here are some highly successful introverts who have changed the world with their gifts, to name just a few:

  • Albert Einstein
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Bill Gates
  • Michael Jordan
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • David Letterman
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Larry Page (co-founder of Google)
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple)
How Can I Be A Proud Introvert?

On the Quiet Revolution website, you can take an introversion test as well as find stories written by Quiet Revolutionaries, individuals who “embody the spirit of Quiet Revolution: strong yet gentle, firm but kind, they are as indomitable as they are unassuming.” Introverts are careful, reflective thinkers who can tolerate the solitude that idea-generation requires. Introverts form the majority of gifted people. Moreover, it appears that introversion increases with intelligence so that more than 75% of people with an IQ above 160 are introverted. In Susan Cain’s TED Talk, one of the most watched of all time with almost 12 million views, she argues that introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world and should be encouraged and celebrated.

How To Learn to Thrive as an Introvert

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center in Silicon Valley (San Jose/Saratoga) and Sacramento Valley (Roseville) specializes in therapy and counseling with adults, children and teenagers with introverted personality styles. Call us in Saratoga at (408) 384-8404 or in Roseville at (916) 778-0771 or Click to send an email for more information on how we can help you or your family members succeed in life as a quiet revolutionary.

Silicon Valley and Sacramento Valley Communities We Serve

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley offers evidence-based therapy for Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Eating Disorders near the following Silicon Valley/San Jose communities:

San Jose Therapy CounselingSaratoga Therapy CounselingLos Gatos Therapy Counseling Monte Sereno Therapy Counseling • Cupertino Therapy CounselingCampbell Therapy CounselingMountain View Therapy CounselingLos Altos Therapy CounselingSunnyvale Therapy CounselingSanta Clara Therapy Counseling

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Sacramento Valley offers evidence-based therapy for Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Eating Disorders near the following Sacramento Valley and Sierra communities:

Sacramento Therapy CounselingRoseville Therapy Counseling • Rocklin Therapy Counseling • Granite Bay Therapy Counseling • Lincoln Therapy CounselingFolsom Therapy Counseling • Citrus Heights Therapy Counseling •  El Dorado Hills Therapy Counseling • Loomis Therapy CounselingGrass Valley Therapy Counseling  • Auburn Therapy Counseling

CONTACT US
Saratoga: (408) 384-8404
Roseville: (916) 778-0771
Click to send an email

Impostor Syndrome: Are You Discounting Yourself and Your Successes?

In the Boston Globe, I read that four smart and talented students at MIT committed suicide within the past year. Among its efforts to help students cope with stress, MIT is encouraging students to talk about the psychological phenomenon called “impostor syndrome,” the feeling of being a failure despite a record of accomplishment.

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome MouseImpostor syndrome is common among high achievers, many of whom discount their successes. As a result, they do not feel confident or deserving inside of themselves even though they are objectively successful and perceived as such by other people. Psychological research done in the early 1980s estimated that two out of five successful people consider themselves impostors and other studies have found that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another.

The impostor’s thoughts and feelings can be divided into several categories:

1. Feeling like a fake: You may believe that you do not deserve your success, academic standing or professional position. This is accompanied by a fear of being “found out”, “discovered” or “unmasked.” If you feel this way, you might identify with statements such as: “I have tricked other people into thinking that I am more competent than I really am” or “I am often afraid that others will discover I don’t really know what I am doing.”

2. Attributing success to luck: Another aspect of the impostor syndrome is the tendency to attribute success to luck or to other external reasons and not to your own internal abilities. You may refer to an achievement by saying, “I just got lucky this time” or “it was a fluke” and worry you will not be able to succeed next time. You may think you are just lucky, in the right place at the right time, and that’s why you were chosen for a particular job or role.

3. Discounting Success: The third aspect is a tendency to downplay success and discount it. You may discount an achievement by saying “it is not a big deal” or “it was not important.” For example, a student attending a prestigious university may discount the fact that they were accepted or feel like it was a mistake that they were accepted and that they don’t belong or they aren’t as smart as the other students. Or you may say “I did well because it is an easy class” or “I was promoted because my manager left” instead of attributing it to hard work or intelligence. You may also discount your accomplishments and have a hard time accepting compliments.

4. Dwelling on the Negative: You may notice every time where you think you should have done better or where you made a mistake. On the other hand, you overemphasize minor flaws in your performance. You fail to notice, or fail to put enough importance, on what you did well.

5. Unfair Comparisons: You compare yourself unfavorably to others. Frequently you pick out the most outstanding people in your school, company or field and judge your own performance as inadequate and inferior.

Women and Impostor Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome MaskThe term “impostor syndrome” first appeared in an article written by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in the 1970s. They observed that many high-achieving women tended to believe they were not intelligent, and that they neither internalized nor accepted their own accomplishments. These individuals attributed their successes to luck rather than skill or talent, and were afraid others would realize they’d been deceived by a fraud.

While both men and women experience impostor syndrome, studies show that women are more often affected. According to Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, boys are raised to bluff and exaggerate. Girls, on the other hand, learn early to distrust their opinions and stifle their voices. Young women learn that they tend to be judged by the highest physical, behavioral and intellectual standards. Perfection becomes the goal, and every flaw, mistake or criticism is internalized—slowly reducing self-confidence.

“A real bias against female competence persists,” says Young. “Being female means you and your work automatically stand a greater chance of being ignored, discounted, trivialized, devalued or otherwise taken less seriously than a man’s.”

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, spoke of her own feelings of insecurity in her best-selling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. When Sandberg attended her Phi Beta Kappa induction at Harvard, a woman gave a speech called “Feeling Like a Fraud.” During the talk, Sandberg looked around the room and saw people nodding. “I thought it was the best speech I’d ever heard,” she recalls. “I felt like that (an impostor) my whole life.” At school, Sandberg thought, “I really fooled them.”

Sandberg says, “Many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are – impostors with limited skills or abilities.”

Originally thought to be more common among women, men, too, can be victims of the imposter style of thinking. Even Albert Einstein suffered from impostor syndrome near the end of his life. A month before his death, he reportedly confided in a friend: “the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”

Do I have Impostor Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome DogDr. Valerie Young developed the Impostor Syndrome Quiz (reprinted below). If you answer yes to many of these questions, you may have impostor syndrome:

  • Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as bright and capable as they think you are?
  • Do you sometimes shy away from challenges because of nagging self-doubt?
  • Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a “fluke,” “no big deal” or the fact that people just “like” you?
  • Do you hate making a mistake, being less than fully prepared or not doing things perfectly?
  • Do you tend to feel crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your “ineptness?”
  • When you do succeed, do you think, “Phew, I fooled ‘em this time but I may not be so lucky next time.”
  • Do you believe that other people (students, colleagues, competitors) are smarter and more capable than you are?
  • Do you live in fear of being found out, discovered, unmasked?

Strategies for Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

1) Become aware of your thoughts. Automatic thoughts can be defined as underlying, unquestioned thoughts, which affect how you perceive an event or situation. Realize them for what they are: negative self-talk that has become a habit. Be aware when you engage in thoughts and feelings of an impostor. Awareness is the first step to change and many times we are not aware of our automatic thoughts.

2) Do a reality check. Question your automatic “impostor” thoughts and feelings and try to come up with more balanced thoughts. Understand the difference between your negative thoughts and reality. Identify the critical voice that is doubting your authenticity. It’s not You. Separate yourself from the critical and self-limiting “impostor” voice.

3) Understand the difference between feelings and reality. Some people believe that if they feel something strongly it must be right. “If I feel so stupid, it must mean that I really am stupid.” When you catch yourself thinking in this way, change it to a coping statement of “the fact that I feel stupid does not mean that I really am. It’s a feeling and not reality.”

4) Write down the steps you took to earn the success you achieved. In one column, make a list of what you accomplished on a particular task or project, and in a second column, write the names of people who helped contribute to the success. Come up with realistic responses that give you credit, but also share praise with others who contributed. For example, you could say to yourself, “I’m proud of what I did on that job, and I had the help of a great team.”

4) Replace your negative “impostor” thinking habit by practicing more realistic and helpful self-talk. Remind yourself of how you contributed to your success with thoughts like “I have proven I am capable by…” or “I prepared for this by…” Give yourself credit throughout the day for both major and minor successes. Notice and reframe “yes, but” statement such as “I brought in accounts but she brought in more” to “Even though she brought in more accounts, I brought in many myself.” Focus on your strengths. When you finish a task, you can ask yourself, “What positive qualities do I have that allowed me to do accomplish this?”

5) Be on the lookout for unhelpful coping strategies you engage in to prevent others from evaluating you negatively. For example, if you tend to hold back from sharing your opinions in meetings, take a risk and speak up in a calm and confident way.

6) Celebrate! Give yourself permission to be proud. Let your friends and family praise you. Take some of it in. Let it touch your heart. Being proud of an accomplishment is not the same as being self-centered. After you celebrate, you will probably remember that no matter what you achieved, chances are there is more to do. This can be humbling and healthy, and important to distinguish from the unhealthy internal put-downs.

7) Give yourself a little time to grow into your success, especially if success seemed to come rather easily or quickly. Sometimes you just need time for a new promotion or status to settle in so you can feel like you deserved it and earned it. However, if you think impostor syndrome is keeping you from getting the most out of your life, then you might want to find a therapist to help you work through your thoughts and feelings.

How To Get Help for Impostor Syndrome

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley offers counseling and therapy for women and men suffering from Impostor Syndrome. We are located in Saratoga on the border of San Jose and Saratoga just 1/2 mile from Highway 85. With our convenient location near highway 85, we serve the Silicon Valley communities of San Jose, Saratoga, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Los Altos, Cupertino and Campbell, CA. Contact us at (408) 384-8404 for more information on how we can help you savor your accomplishments and reduce your feelings of being an impostor at school or work.

Radically-Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO-DBT)

RO-DBT: Your Path to a More Flexible Life and Joyful Experiences

Flexible ThinkingLaura Johnson, LMFT, LPCC, Center Director, attended a two-day workshop on Radically-Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO-DBT) led by its founder, Thomas Lynch, PhD, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Southampton, UK. RO-DBT is an evidence-based approach to help individuals become more flexible in their thinking and responding, more open to life experiences that create joy and happiness, and build intimacy and social connections. RO-DBT can be particularly helpful for individuals with inflexible, rigid personality styles who are susceptible to certain types of anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, perfectionism, anorexia and autism. RO-DBT includes many of the skills taught in traditional DBT but also teaches an entirely new set of skills to increase flexibility and reduce rigidity.

RO-DBT Theory

The theory behind RO-DBT is that children with an “over controlled” temperament are more likely to develop internalizing disorders such as anxiety and depression and become socially isolated as adults. “Overcontrol” is defined as an emotionally constricted, shy and risk averse temperament. In appropriate amounts, overcontrol is a positive trait. You may desire to exceed expectations and perform well, value rules and fairness, delay gratification to achieve goals, and have a high sense of duty, obligation and self-sacrifice.

On the other hand, individuals who develop a excessively overcontrolled style may have a need to appear perfect (planning ahead, being right, stressing orderliness and structure), follow rules (always doing the right thing, being prepared, smiling even when unhappy) and have high pain tolerance (able to work really hard and delay or minimize joy and fun).

Goals of RO-DBT

The goal in RO-DBT is to help individuals develop optimal control that is neither over- or under-controlled.

RO-DBT starts with defining what’s healthy and what’s not. Its interventions strive to build these positive traits including:

  • Receptivity and Openness to new experiences (as opposed to high risk aversion, hypervigilance for threat, avoidance of novelty and discounting of constructive feedback)
  • Flexible Responding to adapt to changes in the environment (instead of compulsive needs for structure and order, hyper-perfectionism, compulsive planning/rehearsal, and rigid rule-governed behavior)
  • Emotional Expression and Awareness to have genuine emotional experiences (as opposed to inhibited expressions or fake expressions and low self-awareness or minimizing of feelings)
  • Intimacy and Connection to form long-lasting bonds (instead of aloof/distant relationships, excessive social comparison, envy and bitterness, and low empathy and validation skills)

Ways to Build Flexibility, Openness and Social Connection

In addition to most of the traditional DBT skills, RO-DBT also teaches additional new skills  to build the qualities of flexibility, openness and social connection including:

Radical Oppenness Skills LegosRadical Openness Skills Module is a completely new skills module where you will learn to change your physiology, engage in new behaviors, learn from constructive feedback, validation skills, build compassion and forgiveness, stimulate positive emotions toward yourself and social connectedness with others through loving kindness meditation,verbal and non-verbal skills to signal openness and friendliness, and communication of emotions to increase social connection and reduce social isolation and loneliness.

Mindfulness Skills to recognize when you are in fixed mind vs. fatalistic mind and how to get to flexible mind and to teach self inquiry.

Emotion Regulation Skills to reduce envy, bitterness, resentment and revenge.

Some Examples of RO-DBT Skills

There are three steps involved in building the skill of Radical Openness:

  1. Acknowledge the presence of unwanted or uncomfortable feelings such as irritation, tension in the body, negative emotions or feelings of uncertainty
  2. Turn toward the discomfort and use Self-Inquiry to ask yourself, “What do I need to learn from this?” instead of automatically distracting or accepting
  3. Flexibly Respond by doing what’s needed in the moment

Practicing being open to feedback from others includes the following steps:

  1. Acknowledge the feedback
  2. Describe your emotions, sensations, thoughts and images
  3. Be Open to new information by cheerleading yourself, adopting an open body stance, and fully listening to the feedback
  4. Pinpoint what the new behavior is and confirm
  5. Try out the new behavior
  6. Self-soothe and reward yourself
How To Get Help in Building Flexibility and Other Positive Traits

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley specializes in helping individuals change unhelpful thinking and coping styles and build flexibility, openness and social connection. With our convenient location just a half mile from Highway 85 and the Saratoga Avenue exit, we serve the Silicon Valley communities of San Jose, Saratoga, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Los Altos, Cupertino and Campbell, CA. We also have a CBT Online Video Therapy Program for clients in California who live to far away to drive for our specialized therapy in person. Contact us at (408) 384-8404 for more information on how we can help you manage you become more flexible, open and joyful.

Train your Brain for Social Success

CBT and Mindfulness for Social Anxiety

Did you know that by practicing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, you can create new circuits in your brain? You can actually change your brain so it’s more flexible, focused and compassionate.

We’ve known for a while that CBT and mindfulness work for many problems especially stress, anxiety and depression. New research is emerging from Stanford University and elsewhere indicating that CBT and mindfulness are effective for social anxiety.

Social Anxiety Model

Social Anxiety ModelIf you have social anxiety, you know that some key problems include negative thinking about yourself, doubt about whether others like or respect you and whether you fit in, and excessive worry and anxiety before, during and after social situations. The model of social anxiety below shows how social anxiety is triggered and maintained. We experience a social or interpersonal situation that activates negative beliefs and assumptions about ourselves or others. Once triggered, we feel anxious because of the negative meaning we’ve given to the situation. We may use “safety behaviors,” or do things that make us feel less anxiety in the moment, but end up making us feel hopeless and discouraged because we don’t learn that we can tolerate anxiety and nothing really bad or scary generally happens. (The exception would be if you are being emotionally, verbally or physically abused or intentionally hurt in some way.) Once social anxiety is triggered, we become self-conscious, worry about what others are thinking, fear being embarrassed, humiliated or looked down on and our self-consciousness causes us to look inward.

Changing Your Thoughts

An example might be thinking about going to your high school reunion. You tell yourself, ” No one will remember me. I was such a nerd in high school. The other kids used to make fun of my thick glasses. I really don’t want to go and make a fool of myself again.” You perceive the social danger as rejection. You become self-conscious and focus on yourself and your anxiety reactions. You might predict, “I will end up standing in a corner by myself and no one will talk to me. I’ll make a fool of myself. I’ll feel anxious and won’t be able to stand it.” So you don’t go (safety behavior) and stay home alone with a bottle of wine and ice cream, feeling sad and discouraged.

Imagine, alternatively, if you believed the following: “In high school I was very studious and a few of the jocks made fun of my glasses. I’ve changed now. I’ve grown up, have a good job and people tell me I’m attractive. Even though I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school, I did have a few close friends who may end up going. I would really like to see them. Yes, I might feel anxious in the first half hour or so but I know it’ll pass as I start talking to my friends and having fun.” How might the model of social anxiety change if you had these beliefs instead?

Be a Flexible Thinker

CBT helps you learn more flexible and accurate thinking as well as effective behaviors and coping skills. CBT does not discount the negative but helps you put it into perspective and see what information you might be missing that could help you develop more helpful thoughts and beliefs. Mindfulness can complement CBT by increasing your ability to direct your attention to more productive thoughts and activities and reduce anticipatory anxiety and obsessive rumination.

 

Note: This article originally appeared on MentalHelp.net on August 16, 2011.

We are in the Mercury News!

CBT Center in the Mercury News

Read about the opening of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley in the Mercury News.