Over 15 million people in the US have been diagnosed with social anxiety. It is a debilitating condition that can greatly impact a person’s social life, relationships, and career. For those with severe symptoms, it can be difficult to even leave the house. Social anxiety can also lead people to shy away from getting help because of the intensity of their symptoms. However, with improvements in telemedicine, online therapy is becoming the answer for many people who want relief from their symptoms. Here’s a look at how telemedicine can help those suffering from social anxiety to get effective, potentially life-changing treatment.
What is social anxiety?
There are many misconceptions out there that individuals with social anxiety are just “nervous” people. However, the condition goes much further than someone just being apprehensive about meeting new people or speaking in front of a large group (because who isn’t anxious about those things?). Rather, social anxiety is a chronic mental health condition where social interactions cause irrational anxiety. The emotional effects of this anxiety can differ in intensity, but usually the thoughts revolve around the person fearing that they’re going to be judged. There’s often a tendency to avoid certain activities or people in case of embarrassment or due to fear of failure. Many people have feelings of anxiety before and during events, or just when they’re out in public.
Social anxiety can manifest as intrusive, racing thoughts about being judged or the possibility of looking foolish in front of others. But just as upsetting as these thoughts can be, social anxiety sufferers can also experience intense physical symptoms including blushing, a fast heart rate, sweating, upset stomach and nausea, trouble breathing, dizziness, and muscle tension (among other things) that accompany these thoughts.
Although social anxiety disorder can develop at any age, it’s pretty common for individuals to start noticing these symptoms around adolescence – particularly because this is when teens are faced with big transitions (like entering high school and meeting new friends). There is a tendency for this condition to go undiagnosed because so many individuals consider their nervousness to just be part of their personality. However, the condition can become debilitating when people go out of their way to avoid any or all social situations. Some people can even develop agoraphobia, which prevents them from leaving their homes because of their overwhelming fear of being out in public.
What are the benefits of using online therapy?
There are many reasons online therapy or other telemedicine options can help with the treatment of social anxiety. One of the main benefits is that people with social anxiety are often apprehensive about leaving their homes. Online therapy (whether it’s with a licensed therapist or just an online support group) means that individuals can seek help without having to venture outside. For those who are embarassed by their symptoms or by needing to seek help, telemedicine provides them with the privacy of not having to go outside their home for treatment, so they won’t have to worry about running into people they know.
Another major benefit for using online therapy is the ability to save money. Many online therapists can charge less for their services because they don’t have to spend money on renting an office. There are also less costs for regular office fees. A reduction in therapy costs can be a significant motivator for people to get help when they otherwise wouldn’t.
One other factor is that some people with social anxiety have increased symptoms when they’re around crowds of people – this means that taking public transportation to a therapy appointment can often be a stressful, upsetting experience. So, with telemedicine options, individuals can seek help from their homes without having to worry about traveling to get treatment.
Where can someone go for online help?
There is an increasing number of places online where social anxiety sufferers can go for help. One of the easiest ways is for the individual to first contact their health insurance company. They can help suggest any therapists in the network that offer online or video chat services. If the insurance company is unable to provide any good recommendations, there are other online platforms that specialize in online therapy. One great option is Learn To Live, which offers treatment options for social anxiety (as well as depression and insomnia) all on an online platform. Free assessments are provided to see if the treatment would be beneficial, and then a therapist is assigned to the patient. The treatment offered is CBT-based (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) that works to help the patient develop techniques and tools to better help them manage their symptoms. Web-based CBT has proven to be very effective in the treatment of social anxiety. Another treatment option is TalkSpace, which offers not only video chat therapy but also text messaging therapy (which can run as low as $49 a week – much less than traditional in-person sessions!).
If someone is looking for support with social anxiety but doesn’t think they need to work specifically with a therapist, there are also online support groups that can be very beneficial. These groups (including ones found on Facebook) can provide an understanding network of people who can relate and help provide suggestions regarding social anxiety symptoms. These online resources are often easier to fit into daily life than in-person groups.
Telemedicine and online therapy options can help provide a great deal of benefits for those suffering from social anxiety disorder. For help with the management and alleviation of symptoms, research these options for effective, convenient, and less costly treatment.