The Cause of Social Anxiety Disorder
THE CAUSE OF SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER
Who experiences social anxiety symptoms? Is it only people who have some deeply repressed unconscious psychological trauma? NO! Is it only people who are shy or people who have low self-esteem? NO! Is it due to some sort of failure to develop good social skills? NO! People who have social anxiety that reaches the point that it is interfering with their enjoyment of life are simply those among us who have a very powerful ability to practice what is called mind-sight, combined with a self-perpetuating process of avoidance and anxiety. The ultimate cause of both of these underlying mental processes is genetics. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not your fault, and yes, you CAN improve your lot in life by focusing on tactics that recognize the true underlying cause of social anxiety.
Who else recognizes the following patterns?
1. More anxiety about someone noticing your anxiety than about having the anxiety in the first place.
2. Dread of situations in which you could not easily disappear from the spot light if you needed to.
3. People thinking you are, “quiet,” when that’s not the real you.
4. Being afraid that someone will notice that your voice is shaking, your hand is sweating, your face is blushing, or some other physical sign of anxiety.
5. Wanting to speak up and show people how interesting and smart you can be, only to find that the thought of speaking up is enough to start your heart pounding or your breath to feel like it’s been sucked out of you.
These patterns are complex, but the cause of social anxiety disorder is caused by your genetically inherited personality traits more than anything else. Over time, what happens is that your hypersensitivity to the way others are perceiving you leads to situations that are very uncomfortable or embarrassing (though to someone else it would seem like a normal life experience). Normal life experiences like blushing in front of others and having someone point this out and laugh can lead someone with a social anxiety disorder trait to become hyper vigilant to the normal experience of blushing. As you mind begins to label blushing as a threat, you may begin to become super tuned-in to the slightest inkling of blushing, which then causes you to feel embarrassed at the thought that you might blush…and BAM…you are blushing out of nowhere and you look at the floor instead of making eye contact, and before you know it, you’ve been labeled, “quiet.” This is just one tiny example of the many variations that social anxiety disorder can take. Yours will be unique.
The mind-sight issue is at the root of all of the symptoms. Mind-sight is the process by which you mentally project yourself into the other person’s perspective and then look back at yourself through their eyes. This gives you a great social advantage (unless it takes over as in social anxiety disorder). You are able to self-monitor to present yourself in a positive light to others. People who are low on this ability are the are at a great disadvantage in relationships and business ( Think of someone you have known who seems clueless about how they talk on and on without checking to see if the listener is still interested. Or think of someone who doesn’t seem to realize that other people brush their hair and don’t start personal conversations in the grocery store line). Mind-sight allows you to predict what others are thinking about you. If the mind-sight ability is genetically wired into you to a very strong degree, all it takes is one or two situations that cause you anxiety about how others are perceiving you, and then the process of feeling anxious about a recurrence of those situations sets in. Once you begin to consciously or unconsciously anticipate a certain kind of situation with fear, you will become more aware of the first signs that the situation is approaching.
Trying to “not feel anxious” doesn’t work. In fact, to stick with the example from above, trying to not feel anxious can lead a person who fears blushing to become more likely to blush out of anxiety that they might be approaching a situation that would be embarrassing if they blushed. Translate this to a more general “feeling of anxiety” in social situations and you get a sensation of increasing quiet feelings that seem to take over and suppress your natural spontaneity even before you arrive at the destination where you begin to anxiously anticipate that you might get that “quiet feeling” with all the unwanted judgements of others about seeming shy and quiet. Avoiding the sensation you don’t want ends up creating it. And for a person who wants to know the cause of social anxiety disorder, that’s the crucial point to understand beyond genetics. It’s this point that allows people with social anxiety disorder to make a change in the way their mind and body reacts, and that’s what the site, is all about. See that page: the cause of social anxiety disorder for more information on how to put these ideas to practical use in reversing the effects of social anxiety on your life.
Dr. Todd Snyder is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in helping people with social anxiety disorder and public speaking phobia as they reclaim their lives from the grips of anxiety. He is the owner of a private practice psychological counseling clinic in Northwest Indiana near Chicago, IL.