Movie Stars, Social Anxiety and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

All Movie Stars Like being the Centre of Attention Don't They?

It may seem strange that celebrities who have Social Anxiety would want to be a 'star', as by very definition it means you are the centre of attention, but Social Anxiety doesn’t mean you have to be an introvert. In fact, it is common that highly successful and prominent people feel intense fear in one or two situations, where they feel judged on some kind of performance, such as dating, being introduced to strangers or making conversation in a group. Johnny Depp, one of the most famous, charismatic actors in the world, suffers with Social Anxiety.  He copes with it by hiding behind the costume of the character he plays. The role he takes on makes him stand and behave in a certain way so he feels more comfortable. However, when he is asked to perform as his real self in interview situations, he reports feeling uncomfortable and shy.

"There's a drive in me that won't allow me to do certain things that are easy"- Johnny Depp.

The central feature of Social Anxiety is a strong desire to make a good impression on others but at the same time we feel unable to do this. Instead, we are convinced we will behave in an unacceptable way, such as shaking uncontrollably, babbling, or not being able to speak and that other people will notice and reject us. If you have Social Anxiety, you will be acutely aware of your sensations and feel as though they are very obvious to others; this can make you feel very self conscious. If you feel this way, then it would seem ludicrous to go into a situation in which you were pretty certain you were going to be rejected, (laughed at, talked about, eyebrows raised). So it’s understandable, that the main coping strategy, is to avoid any situation where you would be in the spotlight, for all your inadequacies to be seen.

"As a teenager I was so insecure. I was the type of guy that never fitted in because he never dared to choose. I was convinced that I had absolutely no talent at all. For nothing. And that thought took away all my ambition too".- Johnny Depp

However (and this is a big however), are your sensations and thoughts accurate? Will you really be rejected? Maybe, maybe not. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) approved therapy for Social Anxiety, with countless research to support it. The aim of therapy, is to provide you with techniques that help you cope with situations that cause you fear. As Johnny said before, he uses his character to help him stand and behave in a different way. Probably, a way that looks and feels more confident. Standing in such a way and then daring to look around can test out whether people are judging you. Therefore, you have factual evidence, rather than evidence that comes from your sensations. A CBT therapist will support you to face you fears in a compassionate and kind way, using tried and tested, evidence based techniques. This will build your confidence and self esteem, so that you can become at ease with yourself again. We tend to think that people will admire us for our strengths and achievements and that vulnerabilities and weaknesses are frowned upon. However, being more true to ourselves can be a powerful method to managing Social Anxiety, connecting with others and letting our real strengths shine through.

Article courtesy of Liz Thompson from www.freshthinkingtherapy.co.uk

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