WTF is Exposure? Q&A with Social Anxiety Expert, Dr. Fallon Goodman
Updated: Jun 29, 2022
In order to manage your social anxiety, you need to face the social situations that make you anxious, or what psychologists call “exposure”. We asked Dr. Fallon Goodman, the Director of Emotion & Resilience Lab at the University of Florida, to break it all down for you:
First question, what is exposure, Dr. Fallon?
“Exposure” is being intentional about facing your fears. For those with social anxiety, you can think of it as getting "practice" at social situations.
Okay, so how does exposure treat social anxiety?
By showing you that most of your worst fears are unlikely to come true! It’s totally normal to want to avoid situations that make us anxious (think: canceling on a date or wearing a hat to cover your face).
But when you avoid scary situations, it usually makes things worse. The more you avoid something, the more you teach yourself that you can’t handle or cope with that situation.
I see... but how do I actually do this? If I'm terrified of asking someone out on a date, I'm not about to go try it out for funsies!
You're right, it ain't easy! "Exposure" requires you to stop doing the things that make you feel safe, so it's tough to convince people to put those safety behaviors aside and well, expose themselves.
With Loop, you have the opportunity to tip toe into these experiences at your own pace. When you start using the app, we first ask you to identify how social anxiety has been holding you back. Maybe it's impacted your relationship or your ability to enjoy being in public spaces.
Loop walks you through imaginary versions of these social situations in live, guided groups. In these groups, we give you evidence-based coping tools to manage your anxiety, and the support you need to take on these situations in real life.
That sounds cool! Last question, if I start using Loop and do these exposures, how do I know it's working?
That's a great question. We're working on ways to track your exposure activity (both in and out of the app) to give you data on how you're improving your ability to manage social anxiety over time. Loop is still a work in progress, so there's a lot more we need to do here.
But for now, you'll know it's working if you stick with it! Even imagining situations that give you anxiety can be scary at first. You might want to close the app and never come back, but that will reinforce your fears and keep you from getting to where you want to be. If you keep going, regardless of how anxious you feel, you'll start to see that you can get through it – and that's progress, for sure!