When I told my doctor that the antidepressant medication he prescribed me wasn’t really helping my social anxiety, he suggested I go see a psychologist for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in conjunction with the medication. That sounded fair enough, except, because the medication didn’t work, I still had severe social anxiety, so I was too shy to contact a therapist.
That’s not true, actually–I did contact one therapist. I spent weeks searching the internet for the perfect psychologist near me: one who treated social anxiety, accepted my health insurance plan, and–finally–had an e-mail address that I could contact them through (rather than having to call via telephone).
I managed to find that one specific psychologist who fit all of my criteria. She had a professional-looking website and even had a podcast in iTunes with a few guided meditations. She seemed perfect, so I sent her an e-mail.
A few days later, the psychologist e-mailed me back, saying her schedule was full and she was unable to take on any new patients.
I was crushed. I struggled so much just to build up the courage to e-mail the psychologist, and then I was rejected. She referred me to another two psychologists, but neither of them had websites or e-mail addresses posted online, so I couldn’t research then to find out if they’d be a good fit for me, and I was too shy to cold-call them on the phone. So I gave up searching for a psychologist.
But I didn’t give up entirely. I was fed up with my social anxiety, and I desperately wanted to overcome it. If my doctor said CBT was important, I wanted to give it a shot. But I was stuck in the Catch-22 of social anxiety— my social anxiety prevented me from getting treated for my social anxiety.
I then took it upon myself to learn more about cognitive behavioral therapy. I researched online and read books from the library. I had been a big fan of podcasts, so I listened to every social anxiety-related podcast I could find, particularly ones hosted by psychologists. Many of the podcasts featured mindfulness meditations and cognitive behavioral practices. They taught me how to recognize the false beliefs and negative thoughts that cause social anxiety and how to change them.
I eventually wound up paying for an online cognitive behavioral therapy program run by a host of one of the podcasts I was listening to. I don’t like the idea of having to pay for social anxiety relief programs, but I trusted the host because of the free podcasts I’d listened to. Plus, it was still a lot cheaper than paying to meet with an actual psychologist. I don’t know how online self-help CBT programs compare to real-life person-to-person programs, but the one I did definitely helped. However, I still don’t think you need to pay for a CBT program. As helpful as the one I did was, it was basically just a more extensive version of a lot of the same CBT techniques and practices I’d learned online for free.
So however you go through cognitive behavioral therapy, the important thing is you do it. I wouldn’t be where I am today in my social anxiety journey without CBT. I’ve gotten to the point where I now feel confident enough to call a therapist, which, by the token of the Catch-22 of social anxiety, means that I no longer need to call a therapist.