Social Anxiety - Frequently Asked Questions
Social anxiety is frequently misunderstood. There are many myths surrounding it, and until fairly recently social anxiety was not well studied. Following are some of the questions I am most frequently asked by clients, people with social anxiety, and those who love them.
Is social anxiety genetic? Did I inherit social anxiety from my parents? My parents are both what you might call shy or socially awkward.
This is an excellent question. You might have noticed that social anxiety often can be common in some families. Scientists have been studying inheritance of social anxiety as well, and believe that social anxiety is mainly due to life events and learning.
Children are not born socially anxious. However, some children may be predisposed to feeling more anxious than others.
It is thought that some children who develop moderate to severe social anxiety may have inherited genetic traits or personality factors that make them susceptible to social anxiety. However, genetics alone does not determine if a person will develop social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety is the result of thought patterns and behavior that are learned in response to one or more events that have occurred in a person's life.
Typically, social anxiety begins sometime in childhood, often as a result of traumatic events. These can include events such as being bullied at school, criticism by authority figures, or various emotionally abusive situations.
As a result of these events, the child begins to fear social interaction, and behaves in ways that are reflective of that fear. This in turn impacts the way other children and adults respond to the child, often cementing the fear and behavior.
Most people who have social anxiety experienced some type of trauma or an event of random social rejection at a critical moment in their development, that caused them to become extra cautious socially, and hesitant about social interactions.
Does medication cure social anxiety?
While there are various medications available to alleviate some of the symptoms of social anxiety temporarily, medication alone cannot "cure" social anxiety. Once the medication is stopped, the symptoms return.
While medications can provide relief from some symptoms of social anxiety, medications cannot help you change destructive thought patterns, learn new social skills or develop your self esteem. These are all essential ingredients for eliminating life limiting social anxiety.
Some people find that taking medication for a temporary period allows them to feel calmer while developing their social skills.
Whether or not to take medication is a personal decision that can be made only by each individual and their doctor, taking into account the potential benefits and risks.
If you are taking medication for social anxiety, please consider also working on these issues as well through learning based programs or therapy.
I have had social anxiety for most of my life and don't know how to get rid of it. What can I try?
To overcome social anxiety the most important steps are to learn how to relax in social situations, enhance social skills and abilities, eliminate unhelpful thinking patterns, practice and obtain feedback.
The most helpful step you can take is to find a professional who specializes in social anxiety.
How do we know that cognitive behavioral techniques work for social anxiety?
Many scientific research studies have confirmed that cognitive behavior therapy results in significant improvements in social anxiety for most people.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most highly studied and most effective methods for helping those with depression and anxiety, including those with social anxiety.
Why do people with social anxiety sometimes avoid seeking help?
The sad irony about social anxiety is that it is self-perpetuating. The same feelings of unworthiness and fear of rejection that cause a person suffering from social anxiety so much pain also push them into keeping their feelings a secret.
One of the worst fears a person with social anxiety has is that others will discover that they are nervous or afraid and that this will cause them to be scorned, humiliated and ultimately rejected yet again.
This same fear can prevent you person from seeking the help that you need.
The end result is that social anxiety wins and has it's victim trapped, fearing even reaching out for the help that will turn their life around.