What is social anxiety? It’s not shyness, let me tell you that
If you think that dealing with a social anxiety disorder is all about becoming more confident in social situations and learning to control your emotions – well, you’re only half right.
Becoming confident in social situations isn’t the direct result of you “solving” your social anxiety disorder, but rather it’s about you overcoming a biological mechanism inside your very brain.
Becoming confident in social situations isn’t the direct result of you “solving” your social anxiety disorder, but rather it’s about you overcoming a biological mechanism inside your very mind.
Let me share a story with you: Back when I was in the military I had someone who I knew (Wouldn’t really call that person a friend) who always seemed to be everywhere.
You know that type of person? He was that type of person.
Funny thing is, he always went all over the place, claiming that he was ‘watching’ and ‘listening’ – according to him, he actually wanted to become a psychologist since he was such a “perceptive” individual.
I almost laughed. Almost.
During most our time at boot camp, The second most terrible part of my military service, he had not spoken a single word to me, which made me glad since I didn’t think I could deal with him at the time.
I was happy with being ignored, it made things easier (Or so I thought).
Then one day when I happened to pass by he suddenly called me over. I didn’t want to come off as being impolite or anything so I came over, looking all “depressed” (as usual).
He then asked a few general questions about me, stuff that someone might ask when meeting an interesting new person, Yet I couldn’t help but notice that something was up, after all, What’s so interesting about me of all people? So I decided to be blunt with him since I just wanted to go away (or maybe run away) and for him to leave me alone.
He then proceeded to boast about how he always watches everyone and everything and that he noticed how I don’t interact with people.
He came to the conclusion that I’m depressed.
But it gets better.
He started asking me questions about my home life, trying to ‘understand’ so he could ‘help me’.
The notion might have been…nice, but he himself was very blunt and direct, he liked to think he was clever “in the way of life”, despite admitting to being academically lacking – and it was showing.
Now don’t get me wrong, I myself am no star pupil – but he pointed out pretty much every term and word I said as me being odd or weird for using such “high-level language” in a conversation.
I decided he was right and toned it down, went on my way, and thought I would never have to talk to him again.
Oh, how wrong I was.
For the next few days, he pushed me over to the other guys, making them talk to me, cracking jokes about the way I talk and walk (slumped posture and everything) and all in all it was a fun time.
For them at least, I needed to adapt quickly to this new situation, so I cracked a fake smile for the sake of looking “normal” and tolerated them. The “fake-psychology guy” (as we are going to address him from this point on) smiled at me in pride, pleased with the good work he has done. Pffff.
Forcing yourself through this stuff will never help
A lot of people seem to think that “If I learn to stand my ground all will be well” or “It’s all in your head”
more accurately, It is but not in the way you think.
Here’s the deal: The symptoms of social anxiety aren’t just a random bunch of data, the change in your heart’s pace, the “knots” in you stomach, the inability to control your sense of dread, they all are symptoms for another phenomenon that some of you may know as the “fight or flight reaction”, although a more accurate name would be “Fight, flight or freeze reaction.”
Alright, so what does this actually mean?
There’s a bunch of science around this term, but if we break it down it is quite simple.
When faced with danger you either:
- Fight – that means standing your ground, in social interactions it translates as “being edgy”. In my story this mechanism was shown when I bluntly asked the fake-psychology guy what’s his deal: I was ready to snap at him.
- Flight – Meaning you run away – in my story I wanted to run away after being called over by the fake-psychology guy.
- Freeze – When it comes to a social anxiety disorder this one is the most common reaction: Your body wants to fight, flight or freeze, yet you suppress your urge to fight or flight due to that being humiliating, so you end up freezing.
When all of those other guys began bothering me I could only smile and nod, I couldn’t do anything else at all.
The main point here is that this is a biological mechanism, a natural reaction – your brain goes into survival mode.
Why? Because you feel as if you are in danger when surrounded by other people.
But why would you? If you think about it, it really doesn’t make any sense! Humans are social creatures by our very nature, there is more than a little research to back up that fact as well!
And you would be right to say it too, humans are social creatures, we generally thrive on social interaction – some more than others, but as a whole, we like being around each other.
as we should, too – if we didn’t we wouldn’t make it this far as a species.
Yeah, that’s right, but that’s also the reason a “social anxiety disorder” is classified as a disorder – this isn’t normal behavior.
So as you see, just “fighting” anxiety by forcing yourself out of it is the wrong way to do this: Not only will this not work but you might be traumatized because of it.
“Traumatized? isn’t that going a bit far?”
No, it really isn’t.
If you suffer from a social anxiety disorder you are likely already traumatized, but more on that later.
Think about it for a second: according to your brain, exposure to social situations is perceived as a threat, but what does this actually mean?
imagine being thrown off to a constant sense of danger non-stop.
What do you think that it will do to your psyche? It is proven by research that you can manipulate your brain (up to a certain age), and a constant sense of danger will definitely do that to you.
“But what’s the reason for that? Why do I feel like I’m in danger in social interactions?”
Well, I never was in the habit of just throwing off random useless data, yes?
As I said in my Treatment for anxiety and depression article, there’s always a cause, and for you to solve your issues you need to eliminate it.
Treating the symptoms themselves won’t do that for you.
Metaphorically speaking, it would be like filling the holes in your teeth instead of changing your eating habits – feeling the holes may solve your problem for now but it’s not going to be a long-term solution.
As I stated before, if you suffer from a social anxiety disorder then it’s likely that you already were traumatized.
After all, we already established that it’s possible for you to manipulate your own brain, and for different events to do the same to it.
And you do suffer from a disorder, an irregularity, so there must be a “why” to it, yes?
And there is.
Causes of social anxiety
Here are a few general ones, although you might have social anxiety for a totally different reason
- Bullying – according to a research conducted by the U.S department of education, up to 21.5% of all students were bullied that year. with 13.6% being made fun of, 6% pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on, 4.5% excluded for activities and 13.2% were subject to rumors.
That is not something to take lightly – depending on the age of the child he might show different levels of the symptoms attributed to social anxiety.
He was traumatized and thus his brain was altered, he will now perceive people as being dangerous. And honestly, can you blame him?
- Family conflict and violence – here’s the deal: violence between family members is about 11% of all reported violence between 1998-2002.
True, this was a long time ago, but I’m going to assume that most of my readers were at least children back then, so the data still stands.
Unhappy marriages are also an issue in that sense – For a child to be exposed to, or experience, such conflict on their own skin, so to speak?
- Sexual abuse – No need to elaborate on this one besides adding a few statistics.
In a report published by Professor David Finkelhor, a sociologist that specializes in child abuse from the university of new Hampshire, it was revealed that up to 27% of women and 16% of men were victims of sexual abuse during their childhood.
Among those people, a higher rate of sexual abuse was found in unhappy families.
Take from it what you will.
It really is that simple: with very few exceptions, a social anxiety disorder is a direct result of abuse.
It may vary, of course, but you should keep in mind that prevalence rates for a social anxiety disorder (i.e the chance of you going through it during your lifetime) can go up to 13% of all population, with up to 7% of people have social anxiety at any given moment.
Considering the causes, It’s no wonder that a social anxiety disorder is rated as the third most common mental health problem in the world.
Now, what can you do about it?
Well, for one thing, stick around this website as I will give you my advice when it comes to dealing with your social anxiety disorder, or just shyness in general.
That being said and done, you really should go and talk to someone who knows what he is doing.
Sure, you might go to a psychologist for therapy and pay an hourly fee of 75$-150$ with no refund options and spend thousands of dollars until you feel better (of course, you might not feel better – not every solution is for everyone).
You also could take drugs issued by psychiatrists, but they address your symptoms, make you stop feeling bad, they aren’t a long time solution, and they do more harm than good.
Because let’s face it, shoving chemicals down your throat to treat symptoms isn’t going to help you.
Or you could go through a program and a private coaching service by someone who went through the same ordeal as you do right now.
When it comes to social anxiety there are very few people I would actually trust with my money and my health (two things you shouldn’t be throwing around), and one of those people is the one I’m going to recommend to you right in this review right here.
If you enjoyed this post make sure to check my follow-up review – it might really save your (social) life!
So while you go around treating your social anxiety and stuff, here’s a quick question for you to answer: When it comes to social anxiety, what is your greatest struggle?
Make sure you answer my question in the comment section below, I read and reply to every single one of them.
If you got any personal question you would like to ask me, feel free to email me. I promise to reply to you as soon as possible!