I have been writing about social anxiety for a while now in academic publications, social media and in the media. However, it seems to receive a lot less reaction from people than other mental health issues, such as obsessive compulsive disorder or infertility stress.

I’ve been wondering why this is, and I have come to the conclusion that one reason is that most people don’t really understand social anxiety. How would they? People with social anxiety are experts at hiding their problem, and the mental anguish they experience.

I welcome everyone’s stories who have suffered from this problem. I would like to help raise awareness of the problem, and one way might be with a collection of anecdotes from people who live with this. Do you know anyone, or do you have a personal story about social anxiety that you would like to share? If you send it to me (fjola@ai-therapy.com) I’ll publish it anonymously – I understand that most people with social anxiety are afraid of being open about their problem. For those who contribute, you’ll be helping others by identifying what social anxiety is and raising awareness of this debilitating condition!


It was great to see that yesterday BBC was covering how difficult Christmas can be for those with social anxiety. However, I have to disagree with the psychologist who was quoted in the article:

Chartered clinical psychologist Dr Oliver James believes that any benefits related to CBT are temporary, and effective treatment should deal with the causes as well as the symptoms of anxiety.

“It [CBT] encourages people to tell themselves a story about their anxiety and makes no attempt at all to understand the causes,” he claims.

He is clearly not up to date with latest scientific findings about the value of CBT for treating social anxiety, since both of these arguments are flat out wrong. (1) Decades of research consistently show that gains made from CBT therapy are maintained in the long term. (2) It directly tackles the underlying causes of social anxiety by targeting the thoughts and behaviors that maintain it.


Fjola  Helgadottir, PhD, MClinPsych, is a clinical psychologist, a senior research clinician at the University of Oxford, and is a co-creator of AI-Therapy.com, an online CBT treatment program for overcoming social anxiety

The relationship between salaries and social anxiety

It is a known fact that one area where social anxiety has a big impact on people’s lives is in the workplace. In particular, studies have found that people with social anxiety are less likely to be promoted and have, on average, lower salaries.

When was the last time you asked your boss for a raise?

Lack of assertiveness is one cause of this problem. For some people, being assertive is “too risky” since they have a strong fear of negative judgement – particularly by authority figures. For example, you might be worried about annoying or upsetting your boss, so you convince yourself that “now is not a good time to ask”. Unfortunately, the “right time” never seems to present itself.

In the past, psychologists and counselors would teach you techniques about how to present yourself. For example, common advice would be “make eye contact” and “stand tall with a straight back”. However, if you learn techniques like these without tackling the underlying social anxiety or the fear of negative evaluation, you’ll probably still struggle to gather the courage to ask for a raise.


Facing your fears (with CBT) can be a life changing experience.

One of the most effective ways to tackle anxiety is with a technique called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). This is a long term solution, since it helps people evaluate and challenge their thoughts and behaviors, making them more likely to engage in activities they previously avoided.

In our AI-Therapy program, we use CBT to identify and target the thoughts and behaviors underlying the user’s social anxiety. Not only do our user report fewer social anxiety symptoms after completing the program, but also an increase in happiness and overall quality of life. Who knows – maybe it will give you the courage to ask for that promotion in 2014?



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.com, an online CBT treatment program for overcoming social anxiety