Social Anxiety (Social Phobia)

Why am I having anxiety? Is it just me so worried? I want to get rid of this anxiety now. Am I social phobic? How can I get rid of my worries? This is not possible!… Questions and thoughts like these may be quite busy in your mind. However, I must say that the feeling of “Anxiety” is indispensable for every person. Because anxiety is one of the basic emotions of humans, as it has a warning function against any danger that may come. It allows us to plan and prepare for possible threats. It is seen to be experienced as mild, moderate and severe. While moderate anxiety can lead a person to be cautious and motivated, a severe anxiety can make life more difficult. Everyone experiences anxiety, but those who experience severe anxiety feel more helpless.

Social Anxiety is a type of anxiety that occurs especially in social relationships. Those who experience social anxiety are aware that the anxiety symptoms (tension, difficulty in concentrating, physiological arousal, etc.) they are experiencing or will experience at that moment are due to social interaction. In general, this situation can vary according to the level of anxiety we experience. In fact, if we are all going to a job interview in some way, or if we are going to enter an environment that we do not know, we will feel more nervous if we are preparing for a meeting. However, those who experience it more intensely and continuously are considered to have social anxiety. In other words, we can say that, depending on the level of social anxiety we experience, we all actually take place at some point in this picture in some way.

From time to time, it is seen that individuals with social anxiety and introverted personality structure are confused. The distinguishing feature here is that introverts prefer to spend time on their own and not socialize and go into crowded environments, while people with social anxiety have difficulty in doing this even though they want to, and they say that they are not satisfied with their shyness. In other words, one is a choice, the other is forced and cannot do it even though he wants to. Social phobia diagnosis is very common in societies. In some studies, it has been observed that many people experience social anxiety from time to time throughout their lives. It is stated that it is more common in women than men, and that about 60% of those with social phobia are women. In some studies, it is explained by the fact that it occurs more frequently in men and that the woman is in the home environment and can hide her social concerns more in this way by not entering the business life. This shows us that the results may vary according to the roles of men and women in societies and social acceptance.

Social phobia is known to begin in adolescence and early adulthood rather than in childhood. Due to the difficulties they experience and avoidance of social environments and situations, their rates of working and maintaining a job are lower. As a result, it is seen that their socioeconomic status is low. Individuals with social anxiety feel nervous and clumsy when talking to others. They think that what they are doing is wrong and that they look very stupid from the other side. Because they are too concerned with what others think of them. They may slip their tongues frequently when speaking, with the tension of saying the wrong thing, and may show physiological symptoms that manifest as sweating and trembling. Sometimes they become so obsessed with how they look and how they talk that they can’t keep talking. Individuals with social anxiety are not like introverts, as we have stated. They want more friends, people they can turn to more when they need help. However, their shy nature also prevents them from making new friends and asking for help in continuing friendships.

In a study, a group of university students is given some tasks to work with other subjects. Ask what other students might have thought of themselves. In response, students with social anxiety made comments such as that others did not like them and did not see them as very talented, more than students who experienced less anxiety. In another experiment, subjects were told that they would participate in a discussion via telephone connection to a live broadcast on television. In fact, subjects were only shown a pre-recorded image and a researcher pretending to be a subject took part in this image. Despite the fact that the researcher’s attitude was stable, people with social anxiety perceived the facial expressions of the person in front of them more negatively than people who were carefree (M. Burger, 2016: 313). In other words, those who have social anxiety think that their relationship will go bad and they try to find evidence of this from the other side. This causes them to think that the people in front of them do not like him, they do not want to talk and meet, and they break a friendship that is starting to bud.

The thoughts of someone with social phobia start out as negative and take action. He worries a lot and gets very nervous. His first reaction in the face of the situations he experiences and has difficulties is “I have to escape from here, I have to get away”, while physiological symptoms; heart palpitations, tremors as a result of tension in the muscles, a knot in the throat, sweating as a result of hot flashes or sudden ice cutting. It may continue as a headache or intensification of pain in the most sensitive area of ​​the body, or the emergence of stomach and intestinal problems.

Most researchers explain the reason for the tension and fear caused by social anxiety as “fear of being evaluated”. The state of alarm they experience in situations such as meeting with someone they do not know, speaking in public, entering a new environment, eating in public, and performing while being watched stems from their fear of being evaluated. This often leads them to avoid such environments. When it is not possible to escape from the situation, they communicate very little and avoid eye contact. They have a way of interacting to protect themselves. For this reason, they deliberately keep their speech short, try to appear pleasant, and never engage in controversial or embarrassing topics. In this way, they think that they have reduced the situation of creating a negative impact on the other person.

Causal Factors;

  1. It can be caused by learned behaviors, that is, directly or indirectly, from some events in which classical conditioning is experienced. Social defeat and humiliation can be explained as being exposed to anger and criticism or witnessing such situations. It is known that in those with social phobia, it is likely that their parents value socialization and are more socially isolated.

  1. Uncertainty and the perception of unpredictability can also cause it. Exposure to anxious events, such as separation and divorce of parents, family conflict or sexual harassment, may have an impact on the development of social phobia.

  1. It is known that cognitive factors play a role in the onset and continuation of social phobia. The expectation of rejection or negative evaluation by others arises, which increases the sense of vulnerability among communities that it sees as a source of threat. Another cognitive bias is that they make negative interpretations. For example, if someone approaches you with a smile, does it mean they like you? Or does it mean that he’s just having fun with you and actually thinks you’re an idiot? It depends on the interpretation.

  1. There are biological, that is, genetic and temperamental effects. Young children, who are afraid of new people or situations and are easily disturbed, have a high risk of social phobia in adolescence if the temperament known as behavioral inhibition is high. Studies on this subject show that approximately 30% of social phobia is caused by genetic factors.

Shy people with low social skills can learn how to maintain a conversation, how to express themselves more easily, how to socialize without showing escapism, and they can do this more easily when they increase their self-confidence. When we look at it, we see that the secret of many things is actually a realistic positive thinking. People who think positively lead a healthier life than people who are pessimistic. In the treatment of situations that are experienced both psychologically and socially and that force you, such as social phobia, it can be improved sometimes with medication, sometimes with psychotherapy support, and sometimes with both, depending on the situation. The benefit and contribution of these methods has also been scientifically proven. It is possible to be renewed in our life.

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