Using Positive Affirmations to Ease Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

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If you suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD) you probably have a habit of saying negative things to yourself. You might catch yourself thinking such things as:

  • "I have nothing to say"
  • "People think I am weird"
  • "Everyone can tell I am nervous"

Part of the process of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is to learn how to retrain your brain so that you start thinking in more helpful and adaptive ways. One way to improve your thoughts is by using positive affirmations.

What Are Positive Affirmations?

Positive affirmations are a method of giving yourself encouraging feedback rather than constantly bombarding your mind with negativity. The words that you say to yourself affect your mood and behavior; changing your thoughts from negative to positive may have an impact on the way that you feel.


Do positive affirmations really work? Can changing what you say to yourself change how you feel?

Research is mixed about the effectiveness of positive affirmations. In one study, people who already had high self-esteem felt better after using positive affirmations, while those with low self-esteem felt worse.

It seems that there is the potential for positive affirmations to make some people feel worse about themselves; possibly because the new thoughts are so different from how they currently feel that they just highlight their own feelings of inadequacy.

How to Choose and Use Them in Daily Life

What does this mean if you are choosing to use affirmations?

Pick ones that have some basis in fact or that you already somewhat believe in. Instead of telling yourself that you are an amazing public speaker who never feels anxious, say that you are capable and can manage.

Below are some tips for using positive affirmations in your daily life.

  • Positive affirmations should be phrased in the present tense. For example, "I am confident in social situations."
  • They should be said in the most positive way possible without any negative language. For example, instead of "I must stop shaking" say "I feel calm."
  • Statements should be simple, precise and clear. Keep them short so that you can say them in one breath.
  • In order to construct your affirmations, start with the negative statements that you make to yourself. Then, change them into their positive equivalents. For example, instead of "I have nothing to say", repeat "I can hold a conversation."
  • Repeat your affirmations throughout the day or make a tape recording that you can listen to periodically. Do this even if you feel awkward or like you don't completely believe them at first. Make them easy to access by keeping cue cards handy.

Remember that your goal is to talk to yourself in the same manner as a coach or mentor. Instead of inhibiting your actions or distorting your perceptions, your words and thoughts should uplift you.

It will take time and repetition for the positive affirmations to feel more comfortable and true.

Start with statements that are positive but that closely align with how you feel now and gradually move toward bolder statements as you feel more confident. Although you can use general affirmations for social anxiety, those that you create yourself and that are tailored to your own life will be most effective.

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3 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.
  1. Foreyt JP, Johnston CA. Behavior modification and cognitive therapy. In: Mechanick JI, Kushner RF, eds. Lifestyle Medicine. Springer International Publishing; 2016: 129-134. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-24687-1_14

  2. Cooke R, Trebaczyk H, Harris P, Wright AJ. Self-affirmation promotes physical activity. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 2014;36(2):217-223. doi:10.1123/jsep.2013-0041

  3. Zhu X, Yzer M. Understanding self‐affirmation effects: The moderating role of self‐esteem. Br J Health Psychol. 2021. doi:10.1111/bjhp.12517

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