Social Anxiety Disorder Coping Autogenic Training for Reducing Anxiety By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." Learn about our editorial process Updated on August 16, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Autogenic training can help you to relax in a variety of situations. Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Overview Social Anxiety Disorder How to Practice Autogenic Training A Word From Verywell Autogenic training is a type of relaxation technique that can be used to help reduce anxiety, including that experienced as part of social anxiety disorder (SAD). It can be incorporated into regular treatment such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or used on your own as a self-help strategy. What Is Autogenic Training? Autogenic training is a relaxation technique first introduced by German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz in 1932. Schultz noticed that individuals undergoing hypnosis entered a relaxed state in which they experienced feelings of heaviness and warmth, and he sought to recreate that state in people to reduce tension and anxiety. Autogenic training works through a series of self-statements about heaviness and warmth in different parts of the body. Through this process, a positive effect is induced on the autonomic nervous system. Although less well-known than other relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery, a meta-analytic study in 2008 found the efficacy of autogenic training in the treatment of anxiety. Simple Steps to Start Practicing Guided Imagery for Anxiety Relief Impact on SAD Symptoms In terms of social anxiety disorder, autogenic training may aid in relaxation and help to reduce symptoms of anxiety when combined with other forms of treatment. Just as with other forms of relaxation training, autogenic training may help you to feel calm and relaxed in social and performance situations. If you practice autogenic training often enough, the simple words "I am completely calm" may be enough to induce a state of relaxation. If you struggle with medical conditions or significant psychiatric conditions, consult with your doctor prior to beginning any type of relaxation training exercise. Prep for Relaxation Before you start, follow these instructions to prepare yourself for relaxation:Find a quiet place free from distractions.Lie on the floor or recline in a chair.Loosen any tight clothing and remove glasses or contacts.Rest your hands in your lap or on the arms of the chair. How to Practice Autogenic Training Follow these steps to practice autogenic training: Take a few slow even breaths. If you have not already, spend a few minutes practicing diaphragmatic breathing. Quietly say to yourself, "I am completely calm." Focus attention on your arms. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, "My arms are very heavy." Then quietly say to yourself, "I am completely calm." Refocus attention on your arms. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, "My arms are very warm." Then quietly say to yourself, "I am completely calm." Focus attention on your legs. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, "My legs are very heavy." Then quietly say to yourself, "I am completely calm." Refocus attention on your legs. Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, "My legs are very warm." Then quietly say to yourself, "I am completely calm." Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, "My heartbeat is calm and regular." Then quietly say to yourself, "I am completely calm." Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, "My breathing is calm and regular." Then quietly say to yourself," I am completely calm." Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, "My abdomen is warm." Then quietly say to yourself, "I am completely calm." Quietly and slowly repeat to yourself six times, "My forehead is pleasantly cool." Then quietly say to yourself, "I am completely calm." Enjoy the feeling of relaxation, warmth, and heaviness. When you are ready, quietly say to yourself, "Arms firm, breathe deeply, eyes open." In addition to following these instructions, you may consider using a voice recording, such as the free MP3 audio file offered by McMaster University, in Ontario Canada, with directions on practicing autogenic training. The use of an audio recording will allow you to fully relax and concentrate on the technique. Be sure to stop autogenic training and consult your doctor if you experience feelings of extreme anxiety or restlessness or any other adverse effects during or after practicing autogenic training. A Word From Verywell Severe social anxiety is not something you have to live with. If you find that self-help relaxation exercises are not making a difference in your symptoms, it is important to visit your doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. If you feel too nervous or scared to approach your doctor, try confiding in a family member, friend, teacher, or school counselor—whoever you feel that you would be comfortable enough with to share. There are effective treatments for this type of anxiety. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can feel better. Treating Social Anxiety Disorder 4 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Manzoni GM, Pagnini F, Castelnuovo G, Molinari E. Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry. 2008;8:41. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-41 Brunner J, Schrempf M, Steger F. Johannes Heinrich Schultz and National Socialism. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2008;45(4):257-62. Stetter F, Kupper S. Autogenic training: a meta-analysis of clinical outcome studies. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2002;27(1):45-98. Mindfulness & Relaxation. Student Wellness Centre. McMaster University. Additional Reading University of Maryland Medical Center. Relaxation techniques. University of Melbourne Counselling and Psychological Services. Autogenic Training. Jorm AF, Christensen H, Griffiths KM, Parslow RA, Rodgers B, Blewitt KA. Effectiveness of complementary and self-help treatments for anxiety disorders. Med J Aust. 2004;181(7 Suppl):S29-46. By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Social Anxiety Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.