Social anxiety is a complex condition with a variety of causes. Like most anxiety, it can occur for what seems like no reason, and often is built up over time through countless experiences. But in some cases, it can have a clear cause as well.
In this article, we'll discuss some of the social anxiety causes and what can be done to control them.
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The Many Causes of Social Anxiety
The following is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Rather, it's simply an introduction to some of the issues that may lead to social anxiety and how they manifest. If you're looking for a treatment or to learn more about it, make sure you take my anxiety test now.
Remember, very few anxiety disorders have a single source. But the following are some of the ways that social anxiety may develop.
- Family Much of social anxiety comes from the family in two separate ways. First, there may be a genetic component, where some people are more genetically predisposed to social anxiety than others. Second, you pick up many behaviors from your parents, especially with phobias. If you see your parents show social phobia, chances are you pick up some of their behaviors too.
- Little Interactions/Reinforcement Reinforcement is perhaps a more common issue, and it occurs over billions of interactions. Reinforcement is when what occurs after a social interaction makes you more likely to fear it in the future. For example, if you have a little bit of social anxiety, have a conversation with someone of the opposite sex and think you said something embarrassing, the negative emotions reinforce the idea that it is something to fear, and you may be more prone to more anxiety next time. We have thousands of interactions every year, and each one could potentially reinforce the fearful behavior.
- Minor to Major Trauma Any trauma, especially in social situations, can create social anxiety. For example, physical abuse can create social anxiety in children, as can bullying or getting picked on in school. Tripping or having a wardrobe malfunction can cause it as well. Many different issues that can lead to the possibility of social anxiety, and through interactions they can get worse.
- Little Experience Interestingly, it may be due to something as simple as experience. If you're someone that never really interacted much with others growing up, then you're also going to be someone that feels very uncomfortable in social situations, which over time can lead to anxiety. This is a potential problem in today's generation, as they spend a lot more time in front of a computer, rather than around people. It's unclear whether online interactions provide the same experience.
- Low Self Worth Finally, if you're someone that doesn't think that highly of yourself, your thoughts can eventually cause social anxiety. This still plays a role in interactions, but negative self-talk can be very damaging to your ability to withstand social situations.
These are all possible causes of social anxiety, and some of the many reasons that developing social anxiety are something that is complex. They're not the only reasons either. A lack of a close friend can create social anxiety, as can a parent providing you with only negative attention. There are many ways issues that cause this type of anxiety to develop.
No matter what causes your social anxiety, it's something you're going to want to learn to control. Make sure you take my free 7-minute anxiety test now. It'll give you more information on how to cure your anxiety and what to do if it continues.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Nov 22, 2017.