Social Anxiety represents a specific form of anxiety – one that is triggered in social settings. This type of anxiety is considered to originate from biology and interpersonal trauma, and like any anxiety it becomes self-perpetuating. In other words, the act of avoidance effectively reduces anxiety and so becomes reinforced and patterned.
While social anxiety and introversion are often confused, introversion refers to a preference for ‘recharging’ without distraction of other people. Both extroverts and introverts can be socially anxious.
Here are some ways social anxiety affects people:
- Intense fear or bodily activation in social situations
- A tendency to track those around you, finding that tracking more difficult as the size of the crowd increases
- Self-consciousness, persistent worries about being judged by others, an expectation that others are talking or joking about you
- Rumination: replaying/reviewing/critiquing your performance after social interactions
- Believing your anxiety is obvious and judged by others
- Avoidance of social situations – a self-reinforcing behavior that effectively reduces anxiety
From a survival perspective, we know that intense social anxiety can trigger fight/flight responses, reducing IQ and shutting down the part of the brain that translates internal experience into words.
We know that social anxiety is connected to highly empathic individuals, that those experiencing this shame have often felt a sense of oppression, and that those with social anxiety will rate parents as more oppressive than their siblings might rate the same parents.