Social anxiety is a widespread and debilitating psychological condition that can turn common, everyday circumstances into challenging situations. It can manifest in fear of using the wrong name to address someone; concern over being judged; and, among other things, a tendency to replay conversations and worry over what was said. For those who experience this sort of anxiety regularly, it can be difficult to manage without professional assistance.
Unfortunately, as we addressed in "What to Do When Your Therapist is Away", therapists sometimes travel or take breaks just like the rest of us – and therefore can't always be there to answer questions or offer reassurance. There are numerous ways to handle these situations, but in this post we want to highlight a handful of books on social anxiety you can turn to. These serve dual purposes, in that they can be calming in the moment, but can also provide you with various coping strategies to employ when you're managing social anxiety on your own.
Let's take a look at four such books in particular...
"Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong" by Kelly G. Wilson
We usually try to make people with anxiety feel better by telling them that everything is going to be alright. The problem is that, eventually, something will go wrong. In "Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong," Dr. Wilson avoids telling the reader how to eliminate anxiety from their lives. Instead, he teaches them how to understand these feelings and live with them, by using techniques from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
"How to Be Yourself" by Ellen Hendriksen
Social anxiety usually takes the form of critical thoughts, in one sense or another. “How To Be Yourself” is about conquering social anxiety precisely by stopping those thoughts. In her book, Dr. Hendriksen takes advantage of the most recent studies in the field, and transforms them into useful tips that will help you silence your "Inner Critic." The book also draws from helpful real-life examples of people who have managed to keep their social anxiety under control.
"The Highly Sensitive Person" by Elaine N. Aron
Many people feel overwhelmed by everyday challenges, like noise, difficult choices, and social interactions. But they may also feel deeply thoughtful about the world, simply preferring to take time and/or solitude to digest it. Through "The Highly Sensitive Person", Dr. Aron has essentially established a whole classification of "HSPs" –– people who may experience certain social anxieties and signs of introversion, but who value human connection, think deeply, and form strong bonds. In her book, Aron uses her own experience as a person with this trait, and years of research, to explain to readers how to find out if they are HSPs, and how to take advantage of it to lead more fulfilling lives.
"The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook" by Martin M. Antony
Conditions like social anxiety can make people feel like they've lost control. One way to combat this feeling is to pursue a deeper understanding of this issue. "The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook" is probably the most comprehensive take on the topic, helping readers to understand the different circumstances in which the condition manifests and how they can manage to defeat them. Its chapters include tips on how to learn to communicate more effectively or use gradual exposure to overcome fears.
Social anxiety is an issue millions of people have to deal with every day. In order to learn to live with it, having the support of loved ones and seeing professionals are essential steps. But even if they are not available, there are plenty of books that can provide the insights and techniques we need to understand this condition and effectively cope with it.
Peter Hanson is a freelance writer and part-time teacher based in London. He is currently at work on a post-graduate course in sociology, and is writing a book about personality interpretation on social media.