How Therapists Are Prescribing Chatlines As Part of Social Anxiety Treatment
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, social phobia — also known as social anxiety — is the third most prevalent mental disorder in the world. Social anxiety is reported to affect up to 18% of the population, and almost 13% of the population will experience social anxiety at some point in their lives. People with the social anxiety disorder have a severe fear of being judged, humiliated and feel inadequate in social situations. There are ways people can deal with anxiety disorders, enabling them to lead a normal life. The use of phone chat lines when combined with cognitive behavior therapy has shown to be timely and effective on a variety of social anxiety cases.
Social anxiety is not a sign of weakness. Moreover, it is a heightened sense of awareness of your thoughts and behaviors in social settings. Once you begin to learn this, it becomes easy to start changing these negative and prohibiting thoughts and behaviors and start accepting yourself for who you are by learning to live as the interesting, confident, and fun person you are.
Psychologists are encouraging the use of chat lines in the treatment of social anxiety as a way of helping people learn and practice social skills. Though many will argue that chat lines have fallen out of favor over the past decade mostly due to misuse and bad media press, it is an excellent way to improve social skills — according to Carol Wasserman, a psychologist based in Miami, FL. “People can develop friendships that help them gain confidence in their ability to overcome anxiety” – said Cora.
The use of chat lines as an extension to traditional exposure therapy techniques focuses on confronting the fears underlying an anxiety disorder to help people engage in activities they are avoiding. For those that have problems going out to social gatherings and holding a conversation, the phone chat services can offer better access that is more convenient and less spontaneous. “The client can gradually encounter the object or situation that is feared, perhaps at first only through leaving voice messages, having live chats, then later meeting up with the person face-to-face” — explained Dr Wasserman.
Some therapists are coaching their clients on the use of chat lines even while they are in the office, so they can help them relax and succeed in their social interactions. The therapists teach relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing to help reduce physical anxiety response such as trembling and hyperventilation. The best way to reduce your anxiety towards social situations is to gradually confront them. It can be a daunting task at first, given the anxiety levels will often rise when you do so. However, research shows that if the patient can stay in a situation that makes him feel anxious for a long enough time, their anxiety will gradually reduce. More importantly, if he subsequently confronts a similar situation again, the level of anxiety is likely to be less and less on each occasion. Not only this, but it is likely to pass more quickly each time too, until the point that the situation causes the client little or no anxiety.
Daniel Davidson — one of Dr. Wasserman’s patients — had been struggling with social phobia and depression since he was a teenage boy. He described acute panic and would become overly conscious of himself and his behavior in social interactions like attending birthdays or places where there’d be lots of people, talking to his peers, giving presentations, going to a grocery store, walking along the street, talking on the phone, and even sending emails. Dr. Wasserman asked him to call a chat line every day for about 20 minutes. Obviously, it wasn’t an easy process as Daniel was training himself to do the opposite of what he would usually do in situations which caused him fear. However, with feedback from his therapist and some advanced relaxation techniques, he was able to improve his conversation skills up to a point where he could talk with a stranger about sensitive topics for hours at a time. By exposing himself to fearful situations, his whole mindset and approach to social anxiety changed. He was able to overcome his fears and realized that he had much more inner strength than he realized.
According to Mark Pfeffer, director of the Panic and Anxiety Center in Chicago, IL, exposure therapy is a challenging task that causes people to feel things they have worked hard to avoid. Because of this, it is important to participate in treatment to the fullest extent and follow the prescription of a well-trained therapist. Picking up a phone and talking to a stranger on any of the chatline services like Livelinks or Questchat presents you with a chance of facing your fears while remaining anonymous, safe and talking with your choice of chat mate. Exposure to chat lines as part of the social phobia treatment process is an area that needs to be given more attention.