Social Anxiety Disorder Negative Automatic Thoughts and Social 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 November 27, 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 David Susman, PhD Medically reviewed by David Susman, PhD David Susman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with experience providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and substance use concerns. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Mixmike/Getty Images Negative automatic thoughts are the conscious or subconscious thoughts that occur in response to everyday events. These thoughts are irrational, self-defeating, and may fuel social anxiety disorder (SAD). Role of Negative Thoughts Social anxiety has been shown to be related to increased negative thinking. Within cognitive behavioral therapy, it is believed that what you think can influence what you feel and do. For instance, if you experience negative automatic thoughts like "I'm stupid" or "They'll make fun of me" when about to give a presentation, anxiety, and fear occurs. The negative thoughts can be overwhelming and dominate how you think and act. In our day to day routine, the most deeply held beliefs are not spoken. Your opinions of yourself as a person or as a friend aren't always expressed. If you have social anxiety, you may have incredibly strong negative feelings about yourself. In order to make a change, you need to recognize these intrinsic beliefs and understand that they are holding you back. Identifying Negative Thoughts When undergoing therapy for social anxiety, your therapist may suggest focusing on overcoming negative automatic thoughts. To identify them, one recommended process is to write down some thoughts you have about yourself on a piece of paper. It is essential to write down these thoughts as they occur. You may be surprised about some of the negative thoughts that come into your mind, but keep writing and take the time to focus on yourself. These are the beliefs that guide how you think and act. This is the first step in overcoming negative automatic thoughts. Your therapist will work with you to review these beliefs and how to replace them. You may be guided through disputation, a process where you question your deeply held beliefs and thoughts. For example, let's say one of the things you wrote down about yourself is, "I am unloved." This thought impacts all you do, worsening your anxiety and filling you with loneliness. Your therapist will walk you through the process of challenging these irrational beliefs. You would be asked about your loved ones, your parents or family, your significant other, and your friends. Their feelings for you may directly contradict what you have identified as a belief about yourself. This discordance shows that you are actually loved and valued and that your inner thoughts are false and irrational. You Can Change Negative Thinking Eliminating Negative Thoughts The process of recognizing and disputing negative automatic thoughts is an essential step forward in managing social anxiety. While your therapist will work with you thoroughly to challenge several deeply-held beliefs, this is a learned skill that you can practice on your own in daily life. With practice, you can recognize the thoughts when they occur, realize that they are irrational, and adjust your thoughts to match reality. As you continue to work on this yourself, you may find yourself growing more confident and less anxious. While you may still be nervous or afraid of certain situations, it may not be as debilitating or overwhelming, allowing you to live a richer life. Managing Negative Thoughts Self-help strategies for managing negative thinking include:Keeping a journal in which you track negative thoughtsPracticing mindfulness to maintain awareness of your thinkingUsing positive affirmations to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares an effective way to help you curb negative thinking. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts A Word From Verywell If you are living with severe social anxiety that has not been diagnosed or for which you have not received treatment such as medication or therapy, make an appointment with your doctor or mental health professional. It is important to seek help to overcome the negative automatic thoughts that may be holding you back and continuing to maintain the anxiety that you feel in social situations. The 7 Best Online Anxiety Support Groups 5 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. Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness. National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety: Stop Negative Thoughts. Michigan Medicine. University of Michigan. Iancu I, Bodner E, Joubran S, Lupinsky Y, Barenboim D. Negative and Positive Automatic thoughts in Social Anxiety Disorder. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2015;52(2):129-35. Beyond Worry: How Psychologists Help With Anxiety Disorders. American Psychological Association. Tsitsas GD, Paschali AA. A Cognitive-Behavior Therapy Applied to a Social Anxiety Disorder and a Specific Phobia, Case Study. Health Psychol Res. 2014;2(3):1603. doi:10.4081/hpr.2014.1603 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.