Social Anxiety Disorder is a fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. People who have social anxiety often fear that they are being watched, judged, and evaluated by other people. It is often mistaken for shyness or low self-esteem. There are many different causes of social anxiety, however, the cause of social anxiety in some people simply cannot be explained.
A common cause of social anxiety is a traumatic social experience. If a person is ‘picked on’ or made fun of during childhood, they are likely to develop social anxiety. Social Anxiety can even develop during adulthood, as a result of a traumatic social experience. Some researchers believe that adult onset social anxiety, due to a traumatic social experience, is the easiest social anxiety to treat, because the person simply needs to regain their self-confidence. This isn’t necessarily so for everyone.
Another common cause of social anxiety is a learned response. If a child has parents who have social anxiety, there is a good chance that the child will learn to fear social situations as well. As children, we learn everything from the people who are around us the very most. Alternately, some people who have vivacious, outgoing parents develop social anxiety as a result. They have underlying fears that make them feel that they could never live up to the standard that their parents have set – so, instead of being outgoing, they withdraw, and develop social anxiety as a result.
Furthermore, social anxiety can develop due to misleading or inaccurate information. For instance, if a girl is a tomboy as a child, and she is often discouraged from playing sports and climbing trees – while being encouraged to play with dolls, she could develop social anxiety. She would succumb to social pressure from friends and family members to ‘do what girls do, not what boys do.’ This could become a big problem as she grows up. Dating could become a problem, because she will not feel that she is not feminine, or ‘lady like’ enough for any boy to be interested in her – she likes sports after all. The thought process is totally inaccurate, but it is what she learned as a child. She would be confronted with the issue over and over as time goes by, and eventually, she would develop social anxiety – never feeling like she fits in, and always feeling like she is being judged.
Researchers now also believe that social anxiety can be inherited genetically. Research has shown that identical twins, who share identical genes, experience similar social anxiety symptoms, while fraternal twins, who do not share identical genes, do not experience similar social anxiety symptoms. Research in this area is still ongoing.
The causes of social anxiety vary from person to person. Often, the cause can be found through therapy. Therapists agree that once the underlying cause of social anxiety is found, most people are able to begin dealing with their social anxiety in effective, successful ways.