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Social Anxiety Safety Behaviors

In social situations, safety behaviors are subtle actions people take to avoid anxiety. For example, someone who is anxious about socializing at a party might focus on their phone to discourage others from approaching. Although safety behaviors provide temporary relief, they make anxiety worse in the long-run.

The Social Anxiety Safety Behaviors worksheet teaches the basics of avoidance, and how safety behaviors fill the same role. In the second half of the handout, your clients will be encouraged to identify the safety behaviors they use to avoid anxiety-producing situations.

Research shows that safety behaviors are sometimes used as a form of avoidance during exposure therapy. For this reason, it may be helpful to discuss safety behaviors prior to beginning exposure.

For more information about the cycle of avoidance and anxiety, check out our Cycle of Anxiety video.

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Alternate languages: Spanish
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References

1. Cuming, S., Rapee, R. M., Kemp, N., Abbott, M. J., Peters, L., & Gaston, J. E. (2009). A self-report measure of subtle avoidance and safety behaviors relevant to social anxiety: Development and psychometric properties. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23(7), 879-883.

2. Hope, D. A., Heimberg, R. G., & Turk, C. L. (2010). Managing social anxiety: A cognitive-behavioral therapy approach: Therapist guide. Oxford University Press, USA.

3. Morrison, A. S., & Heimberg, R. G. (2013). Social anxiety and social anxiety disorder. Annual review of clinical psychology, 9, 249-274.

4. Wells, A., Clark, D. M., Salkovskis, P., Ludgate, J., Hackmann, A., & Gelder, M. (1995). Social phobia: The role of in-situation safety behaviors in maintaining anxiety and negative beliefs. Behavior Therapy, 26(1), 153-161.

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