Social anxiety can range from being a minor annoyance to a crippling state of mind. If you are a shy person, then you are naturally going to experience a bit of anxiety in social situations - it's part of your personality. And by working on yourself and becoming aware of your responses you can improve how you feel. But for some, shyness causes social anxiety to be extreme, and it takes more than effort to overcome this condition. Learning to recognize the common triggers and causes of anxiety is a starting point for getting better. Here are some of the possible causes of social anxiety.
Common Causes of Anxiety
Yes, it's best to just admit it - if it weren't for other people, this wouldn't be a problem. But of course, practically speaking, we have to live in a social world, and we will have to be in social situations with others from time to time. With experience the shy person has learned to avoid as many uncomfortable scenes as possible, and thus to keep the anxiety to a minimum. But when it comes to friendship and companionship, we simply need others in our lives, whether they are the ultimate cause of anxiety or not.
2. Low self-esteem
We live in a time when self-esteem has been elevated to an extreme importance for parents and other caretakers. There is even a backlash of sorts that says that we put too much emphasis on never criticizing or telling children that they can do better. But for many shy people, low self-esteem is no joke - they see themselves as incompetent, unlovable, unattractive, and undeserving. They are almost always wrong in their personally biased judgements, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't anxiety provoking.
3. Poor self image
We also live in a society that values external appearances and has apparently set very high standards for beauty. Those of us with a poor self image are constantly measuring ourselves against these impossibly high standards, and finding ourselves lacking. When a person cannot see his or her own strengths as well as weaknesses, it causes anxiety, especially around other people.
4. Low self-confidence
Many of the causes of social anxiety are characterized by the chicken or egg conundrum. Clearly, if you have low self-esteem and a poor image of yourself, you will lack confidence in social situations. But some people may be OK with themselves in private but feel anxious in groups, and their low confidence then results in a lower level of self esteem, and a tendency to criticize themselves. Either way, a person's degree of self-confidence is an important indicator of anxiety levels for the shy type.
5. No support system
Because people who suffer from social anxiety have shunned situations in which they have to interact with others, they have gradually lost membership in possible support systems. These might include churches, clubs, or any group situations that ordinarily would result in friends and simply having people to talk to. Rather than increasing social contacts, the shy person cuts them out and thus increases anxiety when a situation is forced.
6. Abuse or neglect
One of the root causes of social anxiety is the experience of being abused or neglected in childhood. This is a very serious problem to deal with and if assistance is not sought, it will be very hard to overcome when adulthood is reached. It is also the primary cause of many other behavioral issues that may contribute to being shy and withdrawn, and having high levels of anxiety in social situations.
There is also a possibility that the shy person was smothered and overprotected as a child, The phenomenon of over-parenting has only been recognized as a problem in the last few decades, but it is seen as a cause for a person developing an aversion to being in groups. Anyone who has been sheltered in such an unnatural way is going to find reasons to avoid uncomfortable experiences.
8. Bullying and hazing experiences
Some of us shy folks were actually just fine until starting public school. The effects of bullies and hazing experiences at all levels of school can be devastating in later life, for many different personality types. But for the shy person, such experiences are especially painful, because instead of outgrowing and overcoming them, the negative life events are allowed to take over and result in extreme social anxiety. No one who feels this way wants to risk going through those kinds of painful and embarrassing experiences again.
9. Lack of positive experiences
Finally, the socially anxious person has missed out on many possible positive outcomes, so he or she has little reason to pursue any kind of social experience. Over time the problems at the root of social awkwardness and discomfort cause an avoidance of any such potential situations, and there is a reduced chance of having a good experience. All of these causes of anxiety in social situations are not mutually exclusive, and they interact with each other and reinforce each other as time goes by. But there is help for the extremely shy person who makes a commitment to change and improvement. It may be difficult to reach out for that help, but knowing the root reasons for your problem can be the first step on the road to recovery.
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