Don’t throw rotten tomatoes just because of the title. If we think about a habit, it’s nothing more than a strong neural path which have been developed and strengthened over the years. So over the years we developed a certain behavioural pattern we apply in social situations. But where does that behavioural pattern come from?
Our brain’s plasticity is at highest when we were children. That’s when we learn the most. That’s when we start to develop neural networks we apply over the years. But if we, as children, are not in social environments and activities that much, we won’t develop social skills. Instead, we develop the behaviour of going into a corner or something like that. If that suites us from the beginning, that’s the behaviour we’ll apply over the years. We’ll try to find ways to retreat ourselves.
“Talking is talking. WTF is so hard about it?” It’s hard because besides the language, there also is the body language. If we’re uncomfortable in a certain situation, our body will show it through its posture, blushing or sweat at the sizes of Niagara Falls. The person we’re talking to notices that and he/she will feel uncomfortable too. We’re also going to notice it and we will believe it’s our fault (which kinda is) and our anxiety will rise. When we try to break one of our neural patterns (habits), we will encounter resistance from our body because it’s out of our comfort zone. But if we grew up in lots of social situations, those will be part of our comfort zone so there will be little to no anxiety.
Some feelings of anxiety in social situations are normal and necessary for effective social functioning and developmental growth. Cognitive advances and increased pressures in late childhood and early adolescence result in repeated social anxiety. Adolescents have identified their most common anxieties as focused on relationships with peers to whom they are attracted, peer rejection, public speaking, blushing, self-consciousness, panic, and past behavior. Most adolescents progress through their fears and meet the developmental demands placed on them. More and more children are being diagnosed with social anxiety, and this can lead to problems with education if not closely monitored. Part of social anxiety is fear of being criticized by others, and in children, social anxiety causes extreme distress over everyday activities such as playing with other kids, reading in class, or speaking to adults. On the other hand, some children with social anxiety will act out because of their fear. The problem with identifying social anxiety disorder in children is that it can be difficult to determine the difference between social anxiety and basic shyness.
It can be easier to identify social anxiety within adults because they tend to shy away from any social situation and keep to themselves. Common adult forms of social anxiety include performance anxiety, public speaking anxiety, stage fright, and timidness. All of these may also assume clinical forms, i.e., become anxiety disorders.
Criteria that distinguish between clinical and nonclinical forms of social anxiety include the intensity and level of behavioral and psychosomatic disruption (discomfort) in addition to the anticipatory nature of the fear. Social anxieties may also be classified according to the broadness of triggering social situations. For example, fear of eating in public has a very narrow situational scope (eating in public), while shyness may have a wide scope (a person may be shy of doing many things in various circumstances). The clinical (disorder) forms are also divided into general social phobia (i.e., social anxiety disorder) and specific social phobia. – Wikipedia
As you can see, it’s normal to feel awkward in some situations, especially when you’ve never been through it. But if you feel paralyzed by that situation or you have panic attacks in social situations, it’s probably because you’ve been through little to no similar situations when you were a child and you haven’t developed your social skills. If over the years you’ve reacted in the same way, it’s now become a habit since that’s your mental “program” that runs when you encounter a social situation. Oh, and let’s not forget the fear. That’s always there and it stops us from finding new ways so we can reduce that anxiety.
Yes, it depends on the situation. Some situations will not trigger so much anxiety as others. Depending on the severity of it, we can try to overcome it by ourselves or we might need to find professional help.
How is social anxiety affecting your life?