For my PhD I created an online social anxiety treatment for people who stutter or stammer. The results were fantastic. In fact, they were so good that Ross Menzies and I wanted to make the tool available for everyone with social anxiety, and that’s how AI-Therapy was born.

AI-Therapy now has hundreds of users from all over the world, and our results (technically known as the program’s “effect size“) have been just as strong as the original PhD version. Actually, they are even more promising as they are now based on a larger population of users.

Statistics aside, it’s also important to hear people’s stories. Unfortunately, the nature of social anxiety makes it difficult for those who suffer to speak openly about the problems. Therefore, I was extremely excited to (quite randomly) come across the following article:

How cognitive behaviour therapy helped me

It was written by a user of my PhD program, and talks about the impact CBT has had on his life. I found it humbling that the program I created made such a difference to someone who has lived with social anxiety for over 70 years.

Here are a few quotes:

The programme was one of the great events of my life. It acknowledged that people who stammer often have undesirable thoughts and beliefs and I was shown how to change these. The results were immediate. The major item I picked up from the programme was the dropping of safety behaviours.

Shortly after the course finished I attended a dinner with 25 people. Normally this would involve the minimum of social conversation from me. On this occasion I made use of the techniques I had picked up and talked just about non-stop and on several occasions I was told to stop talking and eat as everyone was waiting for me to finish my meal so they could have the next course served.

Each conversation that I approach I now face with determination and courage. No longer do I stand back and rehearse what I am going to say before saying it. I have become very outspoken and have no problem at all in speaking up at meetings to add to the discussion. People I have met since completing the CBT programme have no idea that I stammer and when I tell them they are amazed by my story of how CBT changed my life.

I highly recommend you read his whole story. As I mentioned, AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program has been enhanced to be suitable for anyone with social anxiety. I hope it continues to change lives.


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, CPsychol, is a clinical psychologist, who has worked in Australia and at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She is AI-Therapy’s director and co-creator of AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program and the creator of Overcome Fertility Stress. Twitter: @drfjola

The Overcome Social Anxiety program is now on sale! It only goes on sale once a year, so this is a great time to start tackling your social anxiety.


Several hundreds of people from all over the world have already benefited from the program! We’ve had users from 28 different countries, and here is a message for each one:

  1. Australia: Happy New Year! (does anyone know how to say this in an Aboriginal language?)
  2. Bahrain:  سنة جديدة سعيدة
  3. Belgium: Gelukkig nieuwjaar, Ein glückliches neues Jahr!, Bonne année!
  4. Canada: Happy New Year!, Bonne année!
  5. China: 新年快樂!
  6. DenmarkGodt NytÅr!
  7. FranceBonne année!
  8. GermanyEin glückliches neues Jahr!
  9. Iceland: Gleðilegt ár!
  10. Ireland: Happy New Year, bhliain nua sásta!
  11. Israel: שנה טובה ומבורכת and سنة جديدة سعيدة
  12. Japan: 明けましておめでとうございます
  13. Luxembourg: Bonne année!, Ein glückliches neues Jahr! (is there another term in Luxembourgish?)
  14. New Zealand: Happy New Year!, Tau Hou oaoa!
  15. NorwayGodt Nytt År!
  16. Qatar: سنة جديدة سعيدة
  17. Poland: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku!
  18. Saudi Arabia: سنة جديدة سعيدة
  19. Slovenia: srečno novo leto!
  20. Singapore: Happy New Year, Selamat Tahun Baru, புத்தாண்டு, 新年快樂
  21. South Korea:새해 복 많이 받으세요
  22. Spain: Feliz año nuevo!
  23. Sweden: Gott Nytt År!
  24. Switzerland: Bonne année!, Ein glückliches neues Jahr!, Buon Anno!, (does anyone know how to say this in Romansh?) 
  25. United Arab Emirates: سنة جديدة سعيدة
  26. United Kingdom: Happy New Year!
  27. United States of America: Happy New Year!
  28. Vietnam: Chúc mừng năm mới

There is a common stereotype about people who suffer from social anxiety. Many assume that they are shy and socially awkward people, and it would be easy to tell who has the disorder just by looking at them. This simply isn’t true. There are countless people who appear to be outgoing and confident, yet dread social events or public speaking, and spend hours ruminating before and after.

Prince Harry is a great example. He has been in the public eye since the day he was born. However, he still gets nervous and anxious before entering a room full of people.

I’d like to thank Prince Harry for speaking openly about his social anxiety. Every time a high-profile person shares their struggles it helps reduce the stigma, and encourages others to seek help.


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, CPsychol, is a clinical psychologist, who has worked in Australia and at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She is AI-Therapy’s director and co-creator of AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program and the creator of Overcome Fertility Stress. Twitter: @drfjola

The Journal of Abnormal Psychology has just published an interesting study that addresses this very question. The researchers asked people with social anxiety to rate themselves at how good they think they are at being friends. Not surprisingly, most people with social anxiety didn’t rate themselves very highly. However, the study went further and asked people from their social circle to rate the subject’s “performance” as a friend. The result confirmed what psychologist have suspected for a long time: the friends liked them a lot more than those with social anxiety believed.

Woman Looking At Self Reflection In Mirror
People with social anxiety often have a negatively distorted self-image.

Psychologists know that the way people with social anxiety see themselves does not always reflect reality. In particular, they see themselves through the eyes of others in a highly negative way. This is a complex phenomena, but for many learning to correct these biases can lead to a major improvement of life.

This phenomenon is addressed in Part 6 our Overcome Social Anxiety program. Since a distorted self-image is the creation of the mind, it can be modified and replaced with a more positive and accurate representation. This is an important step towards curing social phobia!


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, CPsychol, is a clinical psychologist, who has worked in Australia and at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She is AI-Therapy’s director and co-creator of AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program and the creator of Overcome Fertility Stress. Twitter: @drfjola

We have been a little quiet on the blogging and social media fronts over the past few months. This is because we’ve been working hard on our latest product: Overcome Fertility Stress. This is a program that is designed to help women cope with the emotional stress and anxiety the often accompanies trying to conceive. As with our other programs, Overcome Fertility Stress is online and fully automated.

Our goal is to make this the best program possible, so we’ve opened it up for free to everyone. We’ve already received a lot of great feedback which is helping us streamline the program.

One of the advantages of online programs is that the content can be updated and improved in real time (unlike books, which are frozen the second they are printed). Our Overcome Social Anxiety program has now helped hundreds of users tackle their social anxiety, and we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.

One thing we’ve learned is the importance of anonymity. Giving honest feedback can be hard in a time when everything seems to be linked to your Facebook profile. We’ve decided to go the opposite direction: when you sign up to the program you don’t need to tell us your real name. We hope that this will encourage our users to be completely open, in a way that is difficult when speaking publicly.

If you would like to sign up, or find out more, please follow this link: Overcome Fertility Stress

Fertility stress
Overcome fertility stress

Also, if you know of anyone who might find the program useful, please share the link.

Emma Watson did a wonderful speech for the UN recently, and if you haven’t seen it yet you should really check it out:

She launched a campaign called “HeForShe”, where men around the world are asked to join the gender equality agenda. The speech has gone viral (when I opened my Facebook this morning it seemed like half of my friends were raving about it). I came across some coverage of it with the headline “Her Voice Might Tremble, But Emma Watson’s Message Is Strong and Clear.” In my opinion, I found her voice to be very human and down to earth. I think her message was stronger because of this touch of tremble, which highlighted the fact that the speech wasn’t easy for her. Remember, this is a famous actress whose career is performing. She was nervous because nobody feels confident all of the time, and stepping outside of our comfort zone is when we grow.

This made me think of social anxiety and how we treat it. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for social anxiety challenges people by moving them out of their comfort zones. We learn the most when we “put ourselves out there”. It is about experimenting with your thoughts and behaviors, and helping you live your life without fears.

I think a lot of social anxiety behavior in women is linked to gender equality. Sometimes we fear that by speaking our mind we will be labelled as “bossy”, whereas a man in the same situation could be called a “leader”. This is something we need to move past. For women, overcoming social anxiety can have a fantastic impact on their careers and self-confidence.


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, CPsychol, is a clinical psychologist, who has trained all over the world. She has worked in Australia and at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She is AI-Therapy’s director and co-creator of AI-Therapy’s Overcome Social Anxiety program.

2014-07-24 12.44.50I’ve just come back from the British Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) conference, which was held in Birmingham last week. The conference was excellent. One of my favorite talks was by my colleague Dr Clare Mein of Oxford University. She was presenting her PhD from the University of Western Australia, where she also trained as a clinical psychologist.

Dr Mein demonstrated in series of experiments how social anxiety can affect social situations. In particular, she found that people with social anxiety interact differently during conversations. For example, think about the last time you got lost in a conversation with someone who you are not anxious around (best friend, partner, etc). You got lost in the moment, and the conversation went smoothly. However, it’s very different when you feel socially anxious, isn’t it? When we are anxious there are many thoughts going through our head unrelated to the conversation itself. These are often related to impression management. Here is an example:



The research showed that these thoughts are one reason why people with social anxiety don’t get “lost in the moment”. Unfortunately, it also showed that the conversational partner typically notices this, making the overall experience worse for both people.

Dr Mein conducted an experiment with people who have low scores on social anxiety measures.  She asked these participants to count the number of words starting with the letter ‘T’ while having a conversation. The results showed that the when the participants were distracted by the counting they weren’t fully engaged in the conversation. Furthermore, the conversation partners felt less connected. In the same way, people with social anxiety are often focused on something else (i.e. how they present themselves), having a negative impact on the conversation.

People with social anxiety often have a collection of impression management strategies that they’ve acquired over the years. One goal of treatment, such a with a therapist or an online programs like AI-Therapy, is to identify and let go of these behaviors. This frees you to focus on the conversation. The good news is that if you successfully overcome social anxiety you’ll be able to enjoy high quality social interactions with everyone, not just your friends and family.


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, CPsychol, is a clinical psychologist, a senior research clinician at the University of Oxford, and is a co-creator of AI-Therapy, a developer of online CBT treatment programs.