Self-help books can complement therapy or medication very effectively when confronting social anxiety. And while we would recommend seeing a trusted therapist for help, these social anxiety books could help you begin the process of recovery on your own.
Here we present the 12 best books on shyness and social anxiety to read in 2020. Many of the books convey similar messages and focus on the same science. This is a good sign. The book that will likely help you the most is the one which will speak to you and motivate you to live more happily and confidently. We hope you will find the right book below.
Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness by Gillian Butler
A classic, this self-help book has been helping people with social anxiety since the 1990s. It lays out a step-by-step path for facing and beating shyness and social worries. More specifically, this book will teach you a wealth of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help you challenge your established patterns of thought and behavior.
It is rich with examples which draw from the many shapes and forms of social anxiety, while also stretching its many causes. In addition, the book contains a detailed plan for quieting your disturbing thoughts.
You would be right if this all sounds very textbookish to you. It is and on top of that, it even contains grey highlight boxes to drive home the most important messages of the book.
Despite this, it is written in quite an easy, pleasant style.
Here are a few quotes from the book which I found particularly interesting:
- “It is not necessary to know everything about what caused the problem in order to work out what to do to alleviate it” (p.85)
- It is easier to find alternatives if you use the kind of compassionate, understanding and encouraging approach you would adopt if you were helping someone else (p.207)
- Social anxiety goes with expecting to be criticized…It goes with berating yourself for not having ‘done better’ as if all the responsibility for how things went lay with you (p. 193)
Butler’s book is part of the larger Overcoming book series, every one of which focuses on specific challenge – from general worry to body image problems.
The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook by Martin Anthony & Richard Swinson
Like other books on this list, Antony and Swinson’s book on social anxiety lays down a detailed, self-directed plan to rise above it. And as it is a workbook, it is very much centered around exercises that are founded upon cognitive-behavioral therapy.
The aim of the book is to help you recognize and address your maladaptive thinking patterns so you could train to see reality through a more objective perspective and thus- to quiet your inner critic. And then you go out into the world and expose yourself systematically to the things that trigger your social anxiety. And keep that critic quiet.
Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life by Barbara and Gregory Markway
Less on the practical side than other social anxiety disorder books on this list, Painfully Shy is a great guide to the more technical aspects of SAD. Every topic covered comes with case histories and scientific evidence to back up the authors’ proposed strategies.
It is suitable for both adults and children, particularly for those with an especially acute form of anxiety.
That being said, this anxiety workbook contains lots of practice tests to identify and evaluate the aspects of SAD that are most challenging to you. This sounds very friendly and reader-centric and it is. The book is written in a warm, compassionate voice that will take your hand and guide you through the process of quieting your inner critic and rising above social anxiety.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne
If you are looking for a book on teenage anxiety, this could be the one you are looking for. This CBT book looks beyond social anxiety and there are sections on OCD and PTSD but it remains an illuminating guide to understanding anxiety.
Bourne’s book will teach you a variety of exercises to overcome social worry, including techniques to limit and end negative mind chatter, desensitization and how to successfully adopt lifestyle changes.
How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise above Social Anxiety by Ellen Hendriksen
As you may have gathered by now, most of CBT self-help books on this list will inevitably focus on the same science, the same strategies as well as very similar case-studies. The difference between something that works for you or not would often be the way the above are woven together and most of all– how effective it is for you.
Ellen Hendriksen’s How to be Yourself is probably a book you could trust. It is one of the most highly-rated books on self-help for social anxiety on Amazon and Goodreads and as of early 2020, it has got more than 1,517 ratings with an overall score of 4.29/5.
Diagonally-Parked in a Parallel Universe: Working Through Social Anxiety by Signe Dayhoff
The author, Signe Dayhoff, is a social psychologist who specializes in social and personal effectiveness, and anxiety management. She is also someone who has spent more than twenty years living with social anxiety. This gives this rich social anxiety resource an especially gentle and kind attitude and the unique perspective of someone who is in the contradictory position of being a patient and a therapist.
Like other guidebooks on this list, ‘Diagonally Parked’ will provide you with a wealth of the current scientific knowledge about SAD as well as with a detailed plan on how to address yours and recover. It will take your hand from the very start of the process: in determining your goals and we hope it will take you to where you want to go.
The book reminds us, however, that doing the work, not simply reading about it is essential.
Overcoming Social Anxiety Step by Step by Thomas Richards
This is one of the most highly-rated books on social phobia on Goodreads. It is grounded in CBT and will ask you (politely) to recognize and challenge the automatic negative patterns of thought that get fired up in your social anxiety disorder.
Even more practically, it will assist you in constructing rational and sustainable networks of belief. Once intact, you would be better poised to become calmer in social situations and more accepting of yourself.
In fact, the book seems to make it a goal for itself to teach you how to stay in the present moment and to avoid falling back on destructive patterns of thought as often possible, until it becomes a habit.
Living Fully With Shyness and Social Anxiety by Erika B. Hilliard
Erika Hilliard’s ambition is, in a warm, reassuring manner, to give us an exhaustive guide on how to accept social anxiety. The book covers a wide range of practicals that you may be too well familiar with: calming the body, body language, heart racing, blushing and eye contact.
The book does go deeper, however, and it provides helpful advice on cultivating positive thoughts that will serve you in the long-run, as well as tips on preparing for upcoming social duties.
And if you experience a harder time with a particular aspect of social anxiety, Dr Hilliard’s book is divided into three sections, which will allow you to focus on what matters most to you. The sections are: The Body, The Mind and Action.
A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety by Michelle Balge
This amazing book is a young woman’s memoir about her long experience with SAD and depression. It is a moving account of the depths that a person can go through when faced with and their incredible strength to find mental health. It is haunting, funny and most of all, immense.
Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety & Phobia by Barbara Markway
The second of Barbara Markway’s books on this list of CBT social anxiety books, ‘Dying of Embarrassment’ is based on clinically effective tactics and strategies to help you live more confidently. It is very much framed in the mould of a workbook and is very helpful in helping you build motivation to face your fears.
It might be a tough read, though; this guidebook will ask you to set goals and achieve them or analyze what went wrong and try again. Following this self-help program for anxiety may be a daunting process, but according to the principles of CBT, it may be one of the few ways in which we could learn to face social anxiety.
It provides a very thorough overview on how your body and mind experience fear and the processes that social anxiety disorder brings and how and where they originate. This will help you get to grips with shyness and social phobia, to understand yourself a little better.
The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Social Anxiety – Jane E. Fleming & Nancy L. Kocovski
The authors of this book propose an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) program for recovering from social anxiety.
The first step on this journey is coming to terms with the symptoms of SAD. The book then goes on to help you adapt your thoughts, feelings and behavior and overcome your fears. Acceptance and Commitment.
The Solution to Social Anxiety by Aziz Gazipura
What sets this book on SAD apart from the rest may as well be the exceptional kindness with which the author tries to reach his audience. Through this ability to suspend our belief in one of the hallmarks of social anxiety- loneliness, Aziz Gazipura makes us feel understood and thus much more motivated to act.
It cannot be a quick process, of course, as shyness and anxiety can be very deep-rooted. But through helping you understand your fears and challenging them, this book may help you overcome shyness and live a more complete and fulfilling life.
We hope that these books on dealing with social anxiety will serve you well. We will continue to update this list as we come across more and more effective resources.
And if possible, we would recommend talking to a trusted psychotherapist. All of the books above will make the point that overcoming your fear comes with experience and courage and the environment of a psychologist’s office might be a very good place.