Anymore, to worry about how others perceive our persona is pretty much the norm for humans. Or so they say. Hence the spur of don’t worry about what others think posters/etc. as of late. But, because this is my blog and thus have to make the post applicable to me because of I’m selfish that way (writers: write what you know) *INHALE* individuals with social anxiety disorder, or SAD, experience this on a much grander scale. So I’m going to be focusing on them primarily. But don’t worry, non-chronic SAD-folk. I think you just may get an inkling of an answer too…
Anywhere from oh, I hope *insert new friend/acquaintance’s name here* likes me and doesn’t think I’m too annoying to I sure am talking a lot/not talking enough in class–everyone probably thinks I’m a know-it-all/antisocial to everyone’s totally staring at me; I wonder what embarrassing thing I did now, we SAD-folk worry about it all, assuming there are people involved. And sometimes not even then. As far as I’m concerned, I feel like I have an audience hidden in the shadows watching me. ALL THE TIME. Well… not all the time–let’s not get weird. But, I mean, in situations when, theoretically, no one has any reason to be paying attention to me, I’m convinced everyone’s watching my every move, judging the way I walk, sit down, eat my food, etc. And it’s just… exhausting. And totally unreasonable, which I’m well aware of (preposition 🙂 ). Pretty much all SAD-folk know their anxiety and worries and paranoia(?) are seemingly minute and nearly irrational. But that doesn’t mean we can automatically change our mindset and BAM! we’re cured! Worry begone!
Recognizing the perceivable simplicity of our worries though, I was tempted to do a little digging on why individuals with SAD care so much about what others think of them and why they’re left under the impression they have an audience watching at all times. I guess that was a little too specific, as I wound up relatively empty-handed in regards to particular SAD mindsets. Instead, what came up in my results was more… general: why SAD exists, or, in other words, causes of SAD. Here’s the long and the short of what I found:
There is no particular cause for social anxiety–no one thing that does it. Shocking, I know. The overall impression I got was SAD stems a bit from both genetics and environmental factors (otherwise known as nature vs. nurture).
The biological argument is, essentially, SAD isn’t so much passed down to children (although this is a possibility–though more research needs to be done to prove this) as it is learned from the child’s parents/familial environment. So, if your parent or sibling has an anxiety disorder and exhibits symptoms of that disorder explicitly or implicitly–especially in the early stages of your life–you become increasingly likely to develop a similar anxiety disorder.
Though an SAD-specific gene has yet to be found (as far as I know), there is a part of our biological makeup that has been connected to anxiety causation. Any guesses? You may be familiar with the neurotransmitter, serotonin? Yeah. Aside from managing our “bodily processes,” this guy also regulates our mood. Only, when you have too much serotonin in your system, your nervousness, er anxiety, increases. Thus, the official conclusion is individuals with anxiety (social or otherwise) have too much serotonin in the body. But, you know. Controversy.
On the environmental side of things (not limited to parents/families/close living environment), you may undergo a series of “trigger events,” or social scenarios during your childhood that (for lack of a better term) “scar” you enough that you develop what we know to be SAD or some kind of social phobia. Notice events, plural, as I don’t think any one event can serve as a catalyst for a mental disorder. These events, though could theoretically relate to anything social, are speculated to be related to trauma (like in those coming-of-age stories I seem to love so much), your environment while growing up (i.e. parents)–especially if the household was strict or protective, mass bullying, traumatic events (kind of like those in coming-of-age stories),
As I said, I didn’t find what I was looking for in terms of SAD-folk and their worries of acceptance, but I’m pretty satisfied with what I did find. Even so, knowing that the worry of pleasing and being accepted by others is common among humans, I looked into the reasoning behind this. And in doing so, I think I actually found the answer to the questions I was asking initially.
Humans are social creatures. And as much as some of us claim to hate people, abhor mankind, enjoy minimal social interactions, we need people and social interaction (minimal as they may be, sometimes) to survive. As a college student with a full-course load, two internships, extracurriculars, volunteering, etc., I, personally, become tired of humans real fast. Real. Fast. But something I’ve noticed about myself is when I feel the least inclined to interact with other people is when I find I need it the most; I feel so much better after socialization. Happier… And then usually exhausted because introversion. But anyways.
We need other humans to survive. And to ensure our survival, in theory, we need to be accepted by other humans in order to have friends, life partners, and families. And despite usually achieving acceptance in at least one if not all of those categories, we usually strive for acceptance in all even remotely social activities. People like being liked. That’s how it is (Though some will claim they don’t care. But hey, did you just read like a sentence ago about the need for social interaction to survive? Yeah, you care. A little bit.) But more so they need to be liked, accepted rather, to survive. And from that need to survive stemmed the need to be accepted and in other words liked. And so arose the universal worry about caring what others think. People with anxiety just have an extreme case of this worry… At least that’s how I see it (Hey, I sort of tied my blog title into a post for like the first time ever! Score! 😀 ).
As for letting this supposedly oh-so-curable fear go, I’ll leave that advice to the don’t worry what others think motivational posters/mugs/etc.
Don’t you feel so knowledgeable?! Okay, actually you might already know a lot of this from your psychology class (Apparently two years ago is too far back. All of this was like a distant memory for me), or maybe just common sense. But hey, learning! 😀
I promise to switch to something less SAD-y for next week’s post. Though knowing me I could probably work it in!