Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

What does cognitive behavioural therapy for overcoming shyness and social anxiety involve?

Cognitive behavoural therapy posits that how you think affects how you feel, and that your emotions influence your behaviour. Therefore if you think realistic, helpful thoughts you mood will be better and you will function better.

The example below  — for someone who fears public speaking — illustrates the interaction between thoughts, physical symptoms and behaviour.


“This is going to be a disaster. I’m hopeless at public speaking.
I’ll blush and sweat, everyone will see I’m anxious and think I’m an idiot”


You start to sweat and your heart begins to pound


“I feel so anxious, I must look really anxious, I’ll make a total fool of myself”


You sweat even more profusely, your chest feels like its about to explode


“I can’t do this. I’ve got to escape”


You leave the building and as you walk away your anxiety subsides


“I’m a loser. Everyone else can do public speaking”


A cognitive behavioural psychologist will ask what social or performance situations are anxiety provoking for you. The therapist will then want to know what you think and do in these situations.


The therapist will help you to:

  • identify your unhelpful thoughts and beliefs
  • evaluate the evidence for and against your thoughts and beliefs
  • create more realistic statements you can say to yourself when anticipating or confronting feared social situations as these will decrease the degree of anxiety you experience
  • devise a plan for gradually exposing yourself to your feared social or performance situations.


The CBT therapist will also help you to identify your problematic behaviours  (e.g. poor eye contact, fidgeting, mumbling) and give you strategies to help you cope with your physical symptoms of anxiety. Your CBT therapist may provide and/or recommend books, handouts,  and videos as part of treatment.


Cognitive behavioural therapy for overcoming shyness and social anxiety encompasses:

  • Education about anxiety
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Exposure therapy (both imaginal and ‘real life’ situations)
  • Relaxation training
  • Slow breathing


Your therapist is also likely to recommend physical exercise and attention to nutrition and lifestyle issues.


Clinical psychologist, Catherine Madigan, offers individual and group treatment in Hawthorn, Victoria . Call now for an appointment on (03) 9819 3671 or 0429 88 3671 or email



This article published on Jul 23, 2012. View related Treatment Options

2 responses to “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy”