Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety and Phobia

Book Review

Dying of Embarrassment is a Self-Help Book for Social Anxiety Disorder
Dying of Embarrassment is a Self-Help Book for Social Anxiety Disorder. Photo courtesy of Amazon

Dying of Embarrassment is a self-help manual for overcoming social anxiety disorder (SAD) based on the principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Published in 1992, the book has many merits but also requires updating in several spots.

In general, it is a thoughtful and carefully written book by a group of psychologists looking to provide the tools that they use with their patients in a self-help format.

Although personal stories are told throughout the book, they are from the eye of the therapist rather than the person with SAD.


Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety and Phobia opens with a good overview of SAD, including a couple of diagrams to illustrate the cause and maintenance aspects of the disorder.

Next, goals and objectives are discussed, and the reader is prompted to write down personal goals and objectives. Readers then use checklists to identify symptoms and create a plan for using the book, which may or may not involve reading all of the chapters.

The third section includes a nice description of how to practice diaphragmatic breathing, along with a number of helpful tools: an "Anxiety Rating Scale," an "Anxiety Management Log," and a "Thought Diary."

In the fourth section, exposure therapy is introduced, along with an explanation of how to create an exposure hierarchy and carry out exposures.

Finally, other topics are discussed, such as social skills training, relaxation strategies, dealing with stress, incentives for completing treatment, relapse prevention, medication, and how to get professional help.


  • Functions as a workbook with readers actively using checklists, scales, and logs.
  • Broken up into headings and subheadings; this is helpful to make an otherwise dense book easier to read.
  • Many people overlook whether or not they have the motivation to complete self-help treatment.┬áThe section on motivation and incentives addresses this important issue.
  • Offers a unique look inside the workings of a CBT therapist's treatment planner.
  • Grounded in theory and research about CBT.

Areas for Improvement

  • The text needs to be revised to use the new diagnostic term "social anxiety disorder" instead of social phobia.
  • The goals and objectives section seems well-suited to someone with limited social fears but perhaps a bit difficult for those with generalized SAD.
  • In the section on challenging thoughts and beliefs, readers are encouraged to "ask a friend" questions about their automatic beliefs to determine whether they are realistic. This section is perhaps optimistic about the abilities of a person with SAD. Normally, the therapist would be the sounding board; it is hard to imagine many people with SAD asking someone else whether their thoughts are "normal."
  • The medication section needs to be updated as there is no mention of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the primary medication for treating SAD.
  • The book may be overly optimistic about what can be accomplished without the help of a trained professional.
  • The chapters tend to be dense with lots of text and little white space, making reading a bit tedious at times.
  • The tone of the book is fairly impersonal and may fail to engage some readers.

The Bottom Line

In general, this self-help book is geared toward the thoughtful student; someone who is interested in the "why" of the tasks as much as the "how."

It provides the tools necessary to attempt do-it-yourself CBT; however, only the more dedicated readers are likely to follow through with the recommended treatment.

In terms of introducing readers to CBT techniques and providing a starting point for improvement, this book covers those bases well.

If you are looking for a solid introduction to CBT and care little about entertainment value, this reasonably-priced book may meet your needs.

Buy this book on Amazon.com.

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