What are the Main Causes of Social Anxiety? Social anxiety, also known as a social anxiety disorder (SAD), is one of the most common anxiety disorders. Those who suffer from social anxiety have intense fears of being in social situations. They are also fearful of being judged by others in social situations.
The sufferer feels intense distress when in social situations because he/she is fearful of the opinion or judgment of others. This is different from “extreme shyness”. Social anxiety is much more intensely fearful, much more avoidant, and impairs normal functioning.
Also, most do not like to be observed or seen. They are afraid of being watched. They do not enjoy the attention. Some wish to be “invisible”. The overriding feature of social anxiety is a fear of embarrassing or humiliating oneself. This disorder is also known as “social anxiety disorder” (SAD) or “social phobia” and usually results in a sort of “self-imposed” isolation.
Social anxiety is the result of genetic, biological, environmental, and/or social factors. One factor alone is not enough for a diagnosis of social anxiety. Usually, a combination of factors is the cause of the disorder.
Social anxiety can be triggered by a person, situation, or event that makes the sufferer feel he or she is being harshly scrutinized. The person will feel terrified of the assessment of others, most especially that of a negative evaluation. If these patterns of interactions continue to repeat, social anxiety and its resulting isolation may be the result.
Social anxiety can be an inherited disorder. The current research says that 30% to 40% of the cause is genetic. Some biological factors in social anxiety are sex and age. Social anxiety and most other forms of anxiety are more common in women than men. The onset of social anxiety usually begins in the teenage years.
It is also more common in those who already suffer from other forms of anxiety such as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, PTSD, or other phobias. Or, those who suffer a comorbid mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
The “environment” is a way to describe what is happening to us or around us. In children, social anxiety can result from a shameful, embarrassing, or humiliating personal or social experience. If the child repeatedly experiences these situations, social anxiety can result.
The family setting, negative life experiences, and other societal factors are all environmental causes of social anxiety. Parents can adversely affect their children’s development by being overly controlling and critical. Traumatic events in childhood and bullying in schools are also related to the development of social anxiety.
In some cases, social anxiety becomes a “learned behavior”. In this case, a “learned behavior” is a change or modification in behavior resulting from a previous negative experience.
One cause of societal social anxiety is belonging to a culture that values society over the individual. These cultures give “the group” priority over the person. Japan and Korea are two examples of societies that prioritize the group over the individual.
Taijin kyofusho is the Japanese name of a syndrome in these cultures that means “fearing to make other people uncomfortable”. Since Japan favors society over the individual, those who suffer from this syndrome are extremely fearful that their body or appearance is somehow offensive to others. It is quite common in Japan specifically.
This syndrome occurs in 10% to 20% of the population in Japan. Unlike most other anxiety disorders, taijin kyofusho is more common in men than in women.
The first step in eliminating social anxiety is finding a competent therapist that specializes in anxiety disorders.
There are two types of medications used to treat social anxiety. The first are SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) medications. Some examples of brand names are Lexapro, Paxil, and Zoloft. The other types of medication are sedatives called benzodiazepines. Some common brand-name sedatives used for social anxiety disorder are Klonopin and Xanax.
Social anxiety also impacts physical health. The physical symptoms include sweating, an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, muscle tension, dizziness or lightheadedness, stomach pain or irritation, and diarrhea.
Social anxiety can ruin a life. Those who suffer from crippling social anxiety also suffer a sort of self-imposed isolation due to their fear of social situations. Their isolation is both the source and reason for their inevitable low self-esteem.
This isolation is not only miserable and intolerable but dangerous. It is not good for a person to be completely alone for extended periods of time. Isolation breeds despair.
In time, despair can easily turn into depression. Depression is a much more serious mental disorder. And, much more difficult to treat. Some may resort to abusing substances, including alcohol. Addictive disorders are also very difficult to treat.
Today, getting help or treatment for social anxiety is possible and easily accomplished. It is imperative for one’s health, happiness, and overall well-being. Get informed, get well, and enjoy life!