Yesterday I decided (on a whim) to write a poem about social anxiety. If you want to read it for context, click here. If you aren’t familiar with social anxiety, here are some basics.
1. What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is a feeling of discomfort, fear, or worry that is centered on our interactions with other people and involves a concern with being judged negatively, evaluated, or looked down upon by others. While it can often happen during the social exchange itself, it may also pop up in anticipation of a social occasion, or afterward when we review our performance in a given situation (socialanxietysupport.com).
2. How common is it?
An estimated 19.2 million Americans have social anxiety. Just for reference, America has a total population of about 313.9 million. (webmd.com)
3. What causes social anxiety?
According to socialanxietysupport.com, our genes, our brains, and our life experiences. You can read about all three of them in detail if you follow the link.
4. According to webmd.com, some common anxiety-inducing situations are:
- Eating or drinking in front of others.
- Writing or working in front of others.
- Being the center of attention.
- Interacting with people, including dating or going to parties.
- Asking questions or giving reports in groups.
- Using public toilets.
- Talking on the telephone
5. How bad is it?
People with social anxiety disorder suffer from distorted thinking, including false beliefs about social situations and the negative opinions of others. Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can negatively interfere with the person’s normal daily routine, including school, work, social activities, and relationships (webmd.com).
6. Is it always bad?
According to socialanxietysupport.com, no. Anxiety makes us more alert to our surroundings, helping us to jump out of the way of a speeding car or to run away from an attacker. So when do you cross the line of normal anxiety?
“Social anxiety becomes a problem only when it is so severe that it is excessive or outside the “norm,” and when it causes major problems in our overall functioning and quality of life. When our social anxiety leads us to consistently avoid social situations, to be very distressed when exposed to them, to have excessive fears of being negatively judged by others, or to miss out on things that we otherwise strongly want or need to do, mental health professionals may consider a diagnosis of Social Phobia (also known as Social Anxiety Disorder) (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).”