Automatic Negative Thoughts

Social anxiety is often maintained by automatic negative thoughts and beliefs. For example:

• automatic negative thoughts about yourself, your performance or how you appear to others
• strongly held beliefs about your inadequacy in social situations
• negative biases towards thoughts dwelling on past failings, discounting any positives and magnifying the social abilities of others

When faced with social situations that trigger their anxiety, individuals with SAD tend to shift their attention away from the situation they are in and towards themselves. They may have thoughts such as:
• I am useless at this
• people don’t like me
• I look foolish
• I am boring
• everyone is watching
• everyone’s gone quiet and it’s my fault
• I must be entertaining, otherwise people will not like me
• they can see how anxious I look
• I will lose control and everyone will see

With all these negative thoughts and beliefs it’s hard to feel good about yourself. The negative thoughts are often part of anxiety spiral of behaviours that keep our social anxiety going.

Some pages with more information on automatic negative thoughts can be found here:
www.aboutsocialanxiety.com – Types of negative thinking
www.verywellmind.com – Unhelpful-thinking-styles

Note: CBT has techniques you can use to gradually replace automatic negative thoughts with more helpful and positive ones. See our pages on What is CBT.