“The origins of and mechanism behind social anxiety”

 

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Excerpts from Darius Cikanavicius, Author, Certified Coach:
For the most part, social anxiety develops as an adaptation to stressful and hurtful social childhood environments.

 

When a child is small, their whole world consists of their primary caregivers (mother, father, family members, other authority figures). This world slowly expands as they get older, but how people understand social interactions is set. In other words, the examples we are exposed to as children creates blueprints for our future relationships.
Sadly, most if not all of us are traumatized as children to one degree or another. The degree to which we were hurt is the degree to which we will have interpersonal problems. One of the most common interpersonal problems is, indeed, social anxiety.

 

 

Hurt and mistreated children grow up into adults who feel disappointed, distrustful, overly trustful, bitter, angry, clingy, stressed, numb, or emotionally unavailable in relationships and interactions with others.
They have been programmed to feel like that by how they were treated when they were small, helpless, impressionable, and dependent. Back then, acceptance and validation were vital.

 

 

As I write in the book Human Development and Trauma:

“Childhood trauma leads children to become more afraid of the world. When a child’s first and most important bonds are unstable, it is natural and expected that in adulthood they will transfer this lack of a sense of safety and security onto others.”

 

 

Unresolved pain that stems from early relationships can haunt us for the rest of our lives. Early hurt and pain can program us to feel and believe that, generally, people are dangerous. They will hurt us, laugh at us, use and abuse us, punish us, hate us, want us dead, or even kill us.

 

 

It can be understood as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD or C-PTSD) where the trigger is people and social situations because in the past they were a great source of pain.

 

 

Summary and final words

Most people, and maybe even everyone, suffer from some symptoms of social anxiety. Some forms are more severe, like isolation or panic attacks, whereas others are more “normal,” like fear of public speaking or feeling stressed when talking to someone. And while some of the symptoms may appear more “normal,” even the milder ones can make a person’s day to day life difficult because most things we do involve people.

Managing social anxiety expends a lot of energy and feels extremely draining. That’s why socially anxious people often struggle with depression, too. It can be very debilitating to live with it, but it is indeed possible to overcome it or learn to deal with it better.

For more on these and other topics, check out the author’s books: Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults and Self-Work Starter Kit.

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