Music Therapy for Social Anxiety

What exactly is social anxiety and how can music therapy help me to manage it?

Do you feel anxiety when surrounded by other people? Does being the center of attention make your stomach turn? If so, you may be one of millions of adults in the United States who suffer from social anxiety.

Social anxiety is different from being an introvert or having a shy personality; it is more impactful and can have a negative impact on both your mental and physical health. Many people with social anxiety use some type of wellness strategy to help reduce their stress and anxiety. There are a variety of techniques and therapies that people with social anxiety can use to lessen symptoms, one of them being music therapy.

In this post specifically, we’ll be discussing two major concepts:

  • What is social anxiety?
  • How music therapy can reduce social anxiety.

What is Social Anxiety?

First, let’s talk about what social anxiety actually is. Social anxiety is the experience of extreme fear of or apprehension about social situations. This can include, but is not limited to, being afraid of embarrassment and humiliation in a social setting or avoiding social situations when possible due to severe anxiety. Simply even thinking about social situations may trigger stress.

It’s completely normal for a person to experience nervousness when going to a social gathering or meeting new people; everyone feels this fear sometimes. However, social anxiety is more severe and often makes it difficult for people to function in their everyday lives. Having social anxiety can interfere with a person’s life at home, work, school, or in relationships. 

There are a variety of situations that can trigger a person's social anxiety. Below is a list of some of the more common triggers:

  • Meeting new or unfamiliar people
  • Being the center of attention (ex. Birthday celebration).
  • Being watched or observed
  • Having to make eye contact
  • Having to say something in a public setting (ex. Giving a speech)

Being exposed to these situations can have a variety of effects on someone with social anxiety. This includes physical, emotional, and behavioral effects. Common effects of being exposed to a social situation include:

Physical

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Blushing
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Excessive sweating

Emotional

Behavioral

  • Avoiding social situations entirely
  • Self-isolation (ex. Quitting one’s job)
  • Excessive drinking and/or substance abuse

Do you think you may have social anxiety? If so, you are not alone; according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, social anxiety affects more than 15 million adults in the United States alone. There are a variety of coping strategies that people use to manage social anxiety. Many people also seek professional help and treatment; one option for treatment is music therapy.

How Can Music Therapy Help My Social Anxiety?

Music therapy involves using therapeutic techniques along with music in a variety of ways to meet the physical and emotional needs of patients. This includes two main branches- active and passive music therapy. In active music therapy, a music therapist engages the patient in a variety of different exercises. This can include, but is not limited to, singing or playing an instrument. Passive music therapy is just as helpful, but involves a patient listening to either live or recorded music.

During a music therapy session, a licensed music therapist will use a combination of both active and passive music therapy to address a patient’s needs. Sessions are individualized to a patient’s specific needs.

For patients with social anxiety specifically, a music therapist will work with the patient to both reduce the patient’s anxiety and increase the patient’s social skills. 

There are numerous ways that music therapy can reduce a patient’s social anxiety. Some of the following include:

  • Releasing and discussing emotions. During a therapy session, your music therapist may use different techniques in order to help you work through your emotions. One of the ways to do so is by listening to music and then discussing the memories or emotions that the song brings up. More active approaches to releasing emotion include writing song lyrics or singing; both of these methods can allow a patient to process emotions in a less direct way if needed. All of these techniques allow a patient to confront their emotions and work through them in a healthy way. 
  • Improving communication skills. A major factor that can increase a person’s social anxiety is having to communicate with others, and having social anxiety can only make it harder to communicate. Discussing your emotions with a music therapist will not only help you to work through your emotions, but help you to improve your communication skills as well. One of the most important skills to have when it comes to communication is emotional intelligence. This gives you the ability to be aware of the emotions that you and the people you are communicating with have, and to empathize with the emotions of others. Working through your own emotions is a great way to increase emotional awareness.
  • Boosting overall mood. The techniques and methods used in a music therapy session are not only beneficial, but are also enjoyable. Music has been proven to boost a person’s overall mood as well as release endorphins. Therefore, music has the ability to make you happier. Not only that, music therapy uses music in engaging ways that benefit your overall mental and physical health. A music therapy session has a combination of the joy of music and the positive impact of therapy.

These are only some of the ways that music therapy can help with social anxiety. If you’re looking to read about more benefits of social anxiety, visit here.

If you suffer from social anxiety, you are far from alone. Social anxiety affects millions of people, and there are professionals available to help you decrease your anxiety.

Music therapy can be an impactful way to decrease social anxiety and improve upon a person’s social skills. Professional music therapists will meet your needs on both an emotional and physical level. Overall, music therapy has the ability to change your life and help you manage social anxiety in a beneficial and healthy way.

Mason Thompson
Mason Thompson is a high school senior, dog lover, and coffee enthusiast in Owensboro, Ky. She is thrilled to have completed a writing internship with Incadence during her final semester of high school. In the Fall she is excited to begin Brown University with a major in psychology with addition studies in women's and gender studies and sociology. Following her internship, She has stayed on the Incadence staff and is hopeful her writing will continue to help inform individuals about music therapy and healthcare.
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