I feel like some background is probably required.
According to http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-health-social-anxiety-disorder?page=2 there are a possible mix of causes for the development of Social Anxiety Disorder. These are biological, psychological, and environmental.
- I’m not sure if biological factors are that responsible for mine, if at all. I mean, my mum was extremely shy growing up, but that was kind of due to her family and school environment. On both sides of my family there’s a strong pattern of introversion, but I’m not sure if any research shows a link between this and social anxiety. Introversion is seen as a negative trait in Western society, when it actually has many benefits and doesn’t mean a person is excessively shy or retiring. Dictionary.com shamefully defines an introvert as “a shy person” when this simply isn’t accurate or backed up by scientific evidence. I’ve written to them at length a
bout this several times only to be ignored; I guess they can’t be bothered to do some research and de-stigmatize the large percentage of us who are introverts, ah well. I’m going off on a tangent so you could check out this page for more: http://www.carlkingdom.com/10-myths-about-introverts#.U91Lb_ldWSo
[Afternote: Actually now I can recognise some patterns of possible anxiety/depression on my mum’s side of the family so there probably is a biological aspect for me]
- The psychological aspect is probably the most real for me. I was bullied through most of primary school. There was kid who verbally bullied me and would constantly compete with my friends to get them to socially exclude me. The effects of this really began to take place after it was over, as I was becoming a teenager. I’m not really bitter towards the one who bullied me; I know that this would be pointless and a waste of mental energy. I moved away from that locality when I was twelve and lost touch with my previous friends, something I would partially undo if I could go back. Because I was twelve and angsty, not one to take change very well, I foolishly allowed myself to develop some pretty destructive thought patterns, believing I was a weak person for letting bullying happen to me etc etc etc… I know better than this now, but I’d like to take this opportunity to beg anyone who thinks this way not to because it’s completely wrong and you will so wish you hadn’t later. I think all aspects of our personality have both a positive and a negative side (except for the innate immoral side I guess we’re born with), so choosing to only see the negative side is really, really unhealthy. My self-destructive thoughts were strangely self-indulgent, although don’t ask me to explain that because I haven’t quite worked it out myself yet. I sometimes regress back to these thought patterns during sudden painful/embarrassing experiences, but it’s mostly over. The long and short of it is that those years of seeing myself as an undesirable character meant the way I imagined myself from other people’s point of view made my social skills spiral downwards along with the confidence I took for granted as a child.
Interestingly, I was actually in my mid – late teens by the time I noticed myself experiencing consistent, intense fear of people in trivial everyday experiences. I think it was my way of dealing with past experiences rather than the experiences themselves that caused it. I had also stopped obsessing over my bullying long ago, and moved on to other reasons to have a beef with myself instead. Eventually, angsty negative thinking declined but left an unfortunate stain of Social Anxiety behind as its end product. I hope I’m not sounding whiny to you, I’m trying to be straight-forward and honest about it.
- The environmental aspect seems to be classed as learnt behaviours or lack of social experience. I can’t say I ever copied my social anxiety oddities from anyone else. I’ve never seen many of the strange little things I see in myself in anyone else, largely because it’s mainly in the mind. I don’t recall ever being influenced to act “shy” by somebody else acting that way. Pre-12, I was rarely shy. In fact in the presence of my closest friends now, I’m often quite outgoing and not someone you’d think was terrified of people on a daily basis.
- Where environmental factors might have some influence is in the fact I haven’t mixed with many different circles of people in my teenage years. I have one group that I love to bits and it’s become my comfort zone. That group comes from my independent school (which I attended between ages 11-17) which is linked to my church, and my extra-curricular activities largely revolve around this same group. With my peers in this group I feel completely at home, they know I can be shy sometimes but it’s generally hunky dory and I love them dearly. With the adults in this circle my social anxiety is variable depending on how well I know them– I don’t know all of them well. In the two years since I left my school of 20 to go to a college of 2000, I’ve done a social nose dive. I had a circle of friends at college but my social anxiety was coming into full swing by this time and I think these friends did see me as super-shy and possibly anti-social. I was lucky to have anyone to sit with at lunch times at all, the way I shrunk into myself at college. It was overwhelming, especially in the last 6 months when I was just waiting to leave and get back to my comfort zone for a summer. One of my biggest fears is of repeating this process at university.
So after doing a post longer than anything I’ve written since I was doing A Level essays like 2 months ago (feels like a century ago) I’ll let you go back to scrolling your News Feed or something. Have an ice cream as some light relief if you like. If you actually read the whole length of that, thank you so much for bearing with me, I’m a waffler I know. This is a more serious post than I expect to be typical on this blog, but I feel like I’ve laid the foundation stone for my ramblings now. Later,