Research has found that hypnosis is an effective tool that you can use to reduce your social anxiety. It can help you develop better ways of managing your fears, calming your anxieties in social situations, and improving your quality of life.

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is a mental health condition that causes persistent fear of social situations. The disorder is common and affects 7.5% of people worldwide, often beginning in adolescence. 

If you think you have social anxiety disorder, you likely have an intense fear of being watched or judged. Those with the disorder feel uncomfortable in everyday situations, such as speaking with friends, meeting new people, or even eating in front of others.

The burden of social anxiety can be significant, and it may impact your experiences at work, when you’re out socializing, and in some of your day-to-day activities. 

For many, it’s so difficult to make and keep friendships going that you avoid social situations altogether.  

Social anxiety signs and symptoms

Social anxiety disorder comes with a range of symptoms. 

Some of these include:

• feeling self-conscious and afraid others will judge you

• staying away from social situations where lots of people gather

• avoiding eye contact and speaking with a soft voice

• difficulty sleeping

• dizziness

• chest pain

• restlessness

• nausea.  

Social anxiety and panic attacks

For some, the fear of participating in a social situation can escalate from mild anxiety to a full panic attack. 

Panic attacks may last several minutes or even hours (though keep in mind that this is rare). 

These attacks can cause physical symptoms, such as:

• nausea

• trembling

• sweating

• heart palpitations.

Although panic attacks can be incredibly distressing to experience, these symptoms are generally transient and aren’t likely to cause you any long-term physical harm. 

How is social anxiety disorder diagnosed?

Like other mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder is diagnosed based on criteria set out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or International Classification of Diseases

The criteria for social anxiety disorder includes:

• a persistent fear of social situations

• a fear of being exposed to unfamiliar people or scrutiny by others

• a fear of acting in a humiliating or embarrassing way

• a fear that impacts your normal routine, functioning, and relationships

• a fear that isn’t due to an existing mental disorder or substance e.g. drugs.

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Social contact limitations

People with social anxiety often feel conflicted about interacting with others—maybe you’re instinctively leaning away and avoiding interactions like starting conversations, chatting on the phone, or sharing a meal with people, fearing it will only lead to embarrassment or humiliation.

Those feelings of low self-worth can be so overwhelming that some people with social anxiety quit their job, experience a marriage breakdown, or stop socializing with friends altogether.  

What causes social anxiety disorder?

The exact cause of social anxiety is not known. However, as with many mental health conditions, genetic predispositions and environmental factors are thought to be involved. 

Several factors thought to increase the risk of social anxiety include:

• a family history of social anxiety

• a tendency to misread other people’s behaviors as threatening

• having overprotective or highly critical parents

• having underdeveloped social skills and lack of confidence. 

How does hypnosis work?

No matter what you’ve seen on YouTube, where hypnosis is often treated as some kind of mind control technique played out for laughs, it’s simply about entering a highly focused, deeply absorbed state of attention—you are always in control during hypnosis.

Either an in-person hypnotherapist or listening to a recording of a hypnotherapy session on an app will help you become relaxed and focused. 

Both would guide you towards reducing distracting thoughts and feelings that trigger your fear response to social situations. At the same time, you’ll be encouraged to become more receptive to new ideas and perspectives, which will help reduce your social phobia to a more manageable level. 

Hypnosis can also help you develop new social skills and relaxation strategies that become tools you can use effortlessly via a process called automaticity—this is when you carry out a behavior or mental process automatically, barely realizing what you’re doing or thinking. 

What does the science say?

Many published studies support hypnosis as an effective treatment tool for social anxiety, often when used in combination with other approaches. 

Hypnotherapy has also been shown to be helpful for a range of anxiety disorders and phobias, such as:

generalized anxiety disorder 

test anxiety 

airplane phobia 

school phobia

public speaking anxiety

panic disorder

sexual performance anxiety 

post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Hypnotherapy has also been shown to improve the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Accessing hypnotherapy

Many hypnotherapists specialize in social anxiety. A more affordable option is using a hypnotherapy app like Mindset Health. These apps offer you direct access to professional hypnotherapy recordings that can be listened to from anywhere. 

Another option is self-hypnosis, which involves learning to enter a deep state of relaxation before offering yourself detailed suggestions to help you manage your social anxiety more effectively.

No matter which option you choose, know that hypnotherapy is very safe, and many people describe it as a pleasant experience. Consult a mental health professional before engaging in hypnotherapy for social anxiety if you have any concerns.

The Wrap Up

Social anxiety disorder is a common mental health problem that can severely impact your quality of life. The disorder may be socially crippling and prevent you from participating in everyday activities. Fortunately, hypnotherapy is a promising tool that has been used successfully to reduce anxiety and promote easier social interaction.

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