Readers who have social anxiety,  or are very shy, might like to attend Sian Prior’s talk at Camberwell Library, 340 Camberwell Rd, Camberwell Melbourne , Victoria on the 8th October 2014. 7pm

Sian has social anxiety yet has had a successful career in the public eye for over 20 years. Sian has written a book called Shy: A Memoir and will be talking about her book and her personal experience of having social anxiety.

Many of my clients have read her book and reported favourably on it, so I think it would be an enjoyable and informative evening.

Please note that it is a free event bookings are essential so  call 9278 4666 to reserve  your place.





“Shy. It’s such a shy word; a timid little word that begs to remain unnoticed. Only three letters long and it begins with an exhortation to silence.”shhh’.”

One of my clients drew this new book, ‘Shy-A Memoir” to my attention  and the first sentence had  me hooked.

Sian Prior is an Australian writer, broadcaster on ABC 774, singer, MC and  teacher who has  written a detailed account about her life lived with social anxiety.

“Social anxiety may lack the poetry to shyness but once you put the symptoms together, it’s hard to argue with the diagnosis. If you’re feeling shy you’re worried about something. If you’re a persistent worrier, you’re anxious. If you’re anxious, your mind enters into a pact with your body, sending it forth into the world with an armoury of self-protective physical responses. Danger! The adrenaline, the sweating, the rapid breathing, all preparing your body to run. Ensuring your hands will shake but your legs will move faster when you need to take off. Except that you’re never sure why you needed to take off so fast in the first place…””

Many social anxiety sufferers would be surprised that Sian has managed, despite  having experienced anxiety since childhood, to teach, co-host radio programs, conduct choirs and address crowds.  Once she even  addressed a crowd of 20000 at a Melbourne anti nuclear rally! Sian  also sings and plays the clarinet. Sian has forced herself to confront her fears all her life and thus  she has achieved many things, despite her social anxiety, in  her 49 years of life.

Sian has said”” if you’re anxious about doing small talk, well, just try and think of it as helping other people. So I might check out the party and see who else looks lonely and uncomfortable and I can go and help them. How do I make it not all about me? Who can I form a little coalition of shy people with?’

I think this book will resonate with many people who experience social anxiety and hopefully it will encourage them to confront their fears. I will be recommending it to my clients as Sian  shows that you can have a successful career, despite having social anxiety, provided you force yourself  to confront your fears.


Public Speaking Anxiety Test

Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety (PRPSA) *

This questionnaire may help you to decide whether your public speaking anxiety warrants treatment.

Directions: Below are 34 statements that people sometimes make about themselves. Please indicate whether or not you believe each statement applies to you by marking whether you:
Strongly Disagree = 1;  Disagree = 2;  Neutral = 3;  Agree = 4; Strongly Agree = 5.
_____1. While preparing for giving a speech, I feel tense and nervous.
_____2.  I feel tense when I see the words “speech” and “public speech” on a course outline when studying.
_____3. My thoughts become confused and jumbled when I am giving a speech.
_____4. Right after giving a speech I feel that I have had a pleasant experience.
_____5. I get anxious when I think about a speech coming up.
_____6. I have no fear of giving a speech.
_____7. Although I am nervous just before starting a speech, I soon settle down after starting and feel calm and comfortable.
_____8. I look forward to giving a speech.
_____9. When the instructor announces a speaking assignment in class, I can feel myself getting tense.
_____10. My hands tremble when I am giving a speech.
_____11. I feel relaxed while giving a speech.
_____12. I enjoy preparing for a speech.
_____13. I am in constant fear of forgetting what I prepared to say.
_____14. I get anxious if someone asks me something about my topic that I don’t know.
_____15. I face the prospect of giving a speech with confidence.
_____16. I feel that I am in complete possession of myself while giving a speech.
_____17. My mind is clear when giving a speech.
_____18. I do not dread giving a speech.
_____19. I perspire just before starting a speech.
_____20. My heart beats very fast just as I start a speech.
_____21. I experience considerable anxiety while sitting in the room just before my speech starts.
_____22. Certain parts of my body feel very tense and rigid while giving a speech.
_____23. Realizing that only a little time remains in a speech makes me very tense and anxious.
_____24. While giving a speech, I know I can control my feelings of tension and stress.
_____25. I breathe faster just before starting a speech.
_____26. I feel comfortable and relaxed in the hour or so just before giving a speech.
_____27. I do poorer on speeches because I am anxious.
_____28. I feel anxious when the teacher announces the date of a speaking assignment.
_____29. When I make a mistake while giving a speech, I find it hard to concentrate on the parts that follow.
_____30. During an important speech I experience a feeling of helplessness building up inside me.
_____31. I have trouble falling asleep the night before a speech.
_____32.My heart beats very fast while I present a speech.
_____33. I feel anxious while waiting to give my speech.
_____34. While giving a speech, I get so nervous I forget facts I really know.
Scoring: To determine your score on the PRPSA, complete the following steps:
Step 1. Add scores for items 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, and 34
Step 2. Add the scores for items 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 24, and 26
Step 3. Complete the following formula:
PRPSA = 72 – Total from Step 2 + Total from Step 1
Your score should be between 34 and 170. If your score is below 34 or above 170, you have made a mistake in computing the score.
High = > 131
Low = < 98
Moderate =  98-131
Mean = 114.6;  SD = 17.2
McCroskey, J. C. (1970) . Measures of communication-bound anxiety. Speech Monographs, 37, 269-277.
Reproduced with permission, please  go the website for more information


My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel


Readers of this social anxiety blog might be interested to check out Scott Stossel’s book, ‘My Age of Anxiety’. Fear, Hope, Dread and the Search for Peace of Mind.’ Random House, the publishers of the book , describe it as giving the history of anxiety from cultural, medical, philosophical and experiential perspectives. He also writes about famous people who have suffered from anxiety.

I have to confess I have not read it yet;  so many  professional journal articles to read, so little time to read anything else. However, from what I have in the Sunday Book Review on the New York Times website in an article by Nathan Heller, Jan 23, 2104,  it appears that Scott Stossel suffered from separation anxiety as a young boy but then  developed social anxiety. He has written about hiding in a bathroom in order to avoid being presented with a trophy on the dais.

Apparently, today he suffers from a variety of conditions including : claustrophobia, fear of vomiting, panics attacks, acrophobia ( fear of flying) , aerophobia ( fear of high places) and stage fright (fear of public speaking)

Stossle shares with the reader that in order to engage in public speaking he has used Xanax ( a tranquilliser),  Inderal (a beta blocker)  and vodka.

Scott Stossel has obviously suffered a great deal, but on a positive note, despite his many anxieties  he has managed to become the editor of the Atlantic Magazine and has written a book ( something many of us will never do). He has written  that “To some people, I may seem calm. But if you could peer beneath the surface, you would see that I’m like a duck — paddling, paddling, paddling.” If any of you have the read the book feel free to blog and tell us what you thought of it.



Radio National Puts the Spotlight on Social Anxiety Disorder

I’m very excited to be appearing on the ABC’s Radio National with Terry Laidler and Phil Kafcaloudes to discuss social anxiety disorder, its symptoms, treatment and the impact it has on sufferers’ lives. Tune in on Tuesday, 13th May from 9.30-10.30am.

Terry Laidler is a forensic psychologist ( as well as a lawyer, broadcaster, government policy analyst, tutor, communications consultant) so I am sure he will have some good questions for me and we will have a very interesting chat about the various facets of social anxiety.

Given that social anxiety disorder is thought to affect at least 1 in 10 people at some stage in their lives and it is believed that less than 25% of social anxiety sufferers get treatment, it is great to have the opportunity to publicise the condition and how people can get appropriate treatment. Apparently most sufferers who do get help receive inappropriate treatments.

Blushing Easily is a Good Thing!?


Do you fear blushing? Matthew Feinberg, who has done research into blushing says “Blushing easily is a good thing, not something you should attempt to fight”. I believe many people who have a phobia about blushing will have trouble taking on board Feinberg’s message, but is probably crucial to overcoming their fear of blushing that they do change their beliefs about going red.

People who  have a blushing phobia  need change their beliefs   about going red as research has shown that peoples’ beliefs and expectations about (1) how noticeable their blushing is and  (2) how people will interpret their redness, are significant factors in maintaining  their phobia.

Having worked with people who have a  blushing phobia for many years, I have found that many blushers believe their redness is far more noticeable and severe than it actually is in reality. When I have given blushers video feedback they have expressed surprise that their on screen appearance is far less red  than they expected it to be.

I often tell clients that they don’t know for certain what others think about their blushing, and that people may view their blushing in a positive light. However, it is good to have research to back up my reassurance and I give clients copies of the  Feinberg, Willer & Keltner (2012) research to read for themselves, in the hope that the message will sink in.

Feinberg et al (2012) who are researchers at the University of California, has  found that people who blush easily are more trustworthy, generous and virtuous than those who don’t blush. Another study, done by the same researchers, found that when people see someone blush  at receiving news of a perfect test score they were more likely to trust him than if he seemed proud of his achievement.

Feinberg  said “moderate levels of embarrassment are signs of virtue. You want to affiliate with embarrassed people more. You feel comfortable trusting them”.

According to these 2 studies, not only are blushers perceived as more trustworthy, they are more trustworthy as they exhibit more pro social behaviour than non blushers. Blushers were also found to be better romantic partners because people who are easily embarrassed are more monogamous.

Research says blushing can help us when dating or doing a business deal.When we blush after committing a social faux pas, it is a non verbal apology and diffuses aggression.

Blushers tend to be very sensitive so may redden at things other people might not, but blushers are generous and kind people.

If you would like help with your blushing phobia give me a call on 9819 3671 or 0429 88 3671

Feinberg,Matthew; Willer,Robb; Keltner, Dacher. Jounral of Personality & Social Psychology, Vol 102(1), Jan 2012, 81-97.

Billionaire overcomes fear of public speaking

Warren Buffet, the well known American billionaire used to fear public speaking to the point that he got physically ill and  has spoken about it in an interview

Like many people, Warren suffered anxiety about giving presentations in  high school and whilst at university. He chose his university classes so to avoid giving presentations and  divulged that he dropped out of a public speaking course before it even started; he paid by cheque and then cancelled it!

However, Warren Buffet did eventually end up tackling his fear of presentations and it has been written that one of the pieces of memorabilia in his office he is most proud of his certificate of completion of that training course.

After finishing the one week public speaking course, he took an  after hours teaching post at the University of Omaha as he  knew he had to maintain his exposure  or he would slip backwards.

Warren’s advice to those experiencing  anxiety is sound.

“Force yourself into situations where you have to develop those abilities.”

“If you can’t communicate and talk to other people… you’re giving up your potential,”

Buffett said, you have to confront your fears,  “you have to do it. And the sooner you do it, the better. It’s so much easier to learn the right habits when you’re young. If you have a fear of associating with people, you have to go out there and do it, and it’s painful… When I was young and completed the [public speaking] course, I was worried I would lapse back… so I started teaching a class at night and, you know, you’ve got to force yourself to do some things sometimes.

I was pleased to find this other quote by Warren Buffet,  “You are doing something very worthwhile if you are helping introverted people get outside of themselves”. I find it very rewarding to help people overcome their social phobias whether it be: public speaking, job interviews, meeting new people, dating, initiating and maintaining conversations, etc.

Please contact me  on 98193671 or 0429 88 3671 or email if you would like help to overcome your public speaking phobia.

If a course has changed your life, please write and tell us about it.

Shy Bladder – The Hidden Condition

One of least publicised forms of social anxiety is paruresis or shy bladder. Some people have an total inablity to urinate in public whereas others have a delay or excessive hesitation in starting to urinate.
People may find it challenging or impossible to urinate in front of others, whether it is in their own home or in public. Some people can’t urinate when under time constraints such as a drug screen , when they are watched, or when others are nearby or might hear them.

Shy bladder affects 7% of the public, but as someone who specialises in treating social anxiety I would say this condition generally goes untreated as in the 20 years I have been a psychologist only a handful of people have presented for treatment of their shy bladder. However it may be that male psychologists see more clients presenting with shy bladder due to the very personal nature of this problem

Many people have difficulty urinating in public scenarios, however for men this problem is more difficult as there is the expectation that men will use urinals whereas women use toilet stalls.

Many men do not like urinating in public urinals for fear that they will not be urinate due to stage fright. I was recently made aware of the great paruresis ( shy bladder) workshops held by the Paruresis Association of Australia. This very affordable, low cost weekend includes accommodation and deserves to well publicised to the community as there would be few opportunities In Australia for paruresis sufferers to have graded exposure to urinating in a supportive environment.

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: This discussion is NOT a substitute for a medical consultation with a doctor.. If you are having trouble urinating, you should always contact a doctor since difficulty urinating can be a symptom of a serious medical condition. You are advised to consult your doctor before diagnosing yourself with paruresis, and seek the appropriate necessary psychological counselling.

Stress Causes

What Causes The Most Stress Amongst Australians

Even though we live in the lucky country, which is often rated as one of the best countries to live in around the world, Australians still have to deal with a high level of stress. Although we live in a very safe and secure environment, in every life there are issues that people worry about and can easily work themselves into a stressful state over. The main causes of stress in Australia are listed below.

1.    Financial Pressures
2.    Personal Health Issues
3.    Family Issues
4.    Others wellbeing
5.    Relationships

It is interesting that financial pressure is the leading cause of stress even in an affluent society such as ours. This often comes down to the feelings of expectation, feelings of security and also because financial success is a often considered a measure of success in our society. When one has a family, financial pressures are often increased as there is the idea that you need to provide for not only yourself, but your families future.

The remaining top causes of stress are all related to health and well-being of a physical or relationship nature. This can make sense based on the fact that our health and happiness, along with that of our friends and family are often what we treasure most. Stress is regularly caused by not wanting to experience the loss of something, and that ties in with health and the strong relationships we make with family and other loved ones.

It is important to know that if you are suffering from a stress related issue, that you can get help and talking about it is usually the best way to overcome a stressful situation. Keeping the causes of stress bottled up inside is rarely the answer.

Other causes of stress from a recent study include study pressure, environmental concerns and personal safety. In our every changing world it will be interesting to see how the causes of stress evolve in the future and how stress management ideas will improve to help people live a happier life.

What do Bradley Cooper, Keira Knightley and Adele have in common?

Given that people with social anxiety fear being negatively judged or evaluated, sufferers often do not divulge their condition to family and/or friends, yet alone the general public.

I am always delighted to read about celebrities or public figures who are happy to discuss their shyness and/or social anxiety in the media as it helps to destigmatize mental health issues.

Keira Knightley, actor , was interviewed for Harpers Bazaar February 2013 and journalist Jennifer Dickinson wrote when she first met Keira she had no idea then “That her shyness was almost overwhelming when faced with a room full of strangers”.

In the interview, ‘Keira Royale’ , Keira said she found red carpet events stressful. “I get really, really, really, really, nervous, every dress has to be sweat proof!”.

Another quote from Keira was “I do have quite a boyish thing of just shutting down and not actually having the conversation, because the conversation will be too embarrassing and I don’t want to get emotional about it, mainly because I find it awkward, so I just don’t do it”.

Actor Bradley Cooper, has also divulged that in the past he did not like public speaking. In April 2013 in British GQ , Bradley Cooper said “I used to be the kid that got the shakes if I had to talk in public; now, I just don’t get nervous about stuff. I can’t control everything”.

Singer Adele was interviewed for Rolling Stone in April 28, 2011 and admitted to experiencing stage fright. “I’m scared of audiences,”she says. “Ï get shitty scared. One show in Amsterdam, I was so nervous I escaped out the fire exit. I’ve thrown up a few times. Once in Brussels I projectile vomited on someone. I just gotta bear it…… I have anxiety attacks a lot”.

if you know of any other famous people that have shyness and /or social anxiety feel to let us know.