thanks for your post. interesting to hear your story. i have a pet theory about this: it has to do with the gut brain (or the second brain as michael gershon calls it in his book of the same name).
according to gershon, the oldest part of the brain isn't actually the lizard brain at the core of our brains, but is instead an even older brain located in the tissue of the digestive tract (and especially the small intestine).
this brain is present in less evolved creatures where the main decision is either 'it's safe, so feed' or 'it's dangerous so contract inside'. think sea anemone: either it's got it's little feelers wafting in the water catching food or it senses danger (an animal touches it's fronds) and it contracts inside like it's life depends on it (which of course many a time it does).
gershon's idea is that this brain is SO important to our survival that as we evolved from these basic organisms and grew a head that would house the beginnings of the new brain, evolution decided that it was best to keep the old, old brain in situ, where it was: the digestive tract.
so we can do work on the head brain and get that functioning it bit less faultily, but doing work on the gut brain requires a different approach because it doesn't use thought as its basic processing unit, it uses feeling and instinct (and so we talk about 'gut feeling', 'gut instinct').
this not to say we shouldn't do work on the head brain if we want to work on shy bowel. the head brain and the gut brain are connected in different ways, so the gut gets messages from the head which it will use to make decisions. so faulty thinking will definitely affect the gut.
which brings me to ask, "what approach did you use in your recovery from social anxiety?"
you mentioned DOING the things that provoked anxiety. did you also have to work on your thoughts and feelings as you did this? (as in CBT therapy).
the other question i have is, "do you suffer from gut problems like irritable bowel syndrome or similar?"
i read a statistic that 70% of people with gut problems suffer from anxiety and depression, and i just kinda thought, "YOU try having gut problems and NOT getting anxious and depressed!"
(i get irritable bowel symptoms that play up in social situations. i almost envy people who get shakes and sweating as their social anxiety symptom - though i'm sure that horrible as well. but at least you don't have bloating, and smelly gas that you can't parp out in the toilets because your shy bowel has kicked in as well).
look forward to hearing your thoughts,