Negative social experiences from your past can only be indirect causes of social anxiety disorder (SAD) because they provide just ‘the motive’.
The motive for what? The motive for you to cause SAD yourself. I’ll explain.
Social anxiety disorder is a behaviourally created condition. Your behaviour created it. This means that experiences could only have done one thing – frightened you into behaving in a certain way – a way that caused SAD.
This page will take a look at the types of experiences that would have frightened you into behaving in ways that are causes for the disorder.
Your home environment
whilst growing up
Remember being a kid aged about 3? Nope, me neither! At that age, our minds are busy taking in beliefs about life and people. These are beliefs that we would eventually carry right through to adulthood.
When so young, our minds are vulnerable to believing anything they come across. Obviously, as a small kid you spend a lot of time at home. Thus, the things that happen at home will shape the way you see the world, people and yourself.
So, what types of circumstances at home might be causes?
Did your parents have low self-esteem?
If any of the people who took care of you didn’t think much of themselves, you might have subconsciously copied them.
Your parents are like your ‘king and queen’ when growing up. If they set something as an example, then for you, as a child, it is the way forward.
So, if any close relatives had low self-esteem, you could have subconsciously copied them.
If your mother or your father (your king or queen!) didn’t feel worthy, then why should you? That’s the subconscious message that gets across.
I think that happened to me. My mom had self-esteem issues when I was growing up, so I think I just assumed that if she had low self-worth, then I wasn’t likely to be valuable either. Still, I know I’m valuable now.
Did any relations suffer from social anxiety before you?
Although you can’t be born with social anxiety, you’re much more likely to develop it if your parents have it. This is because they’ll unintentionally spread anxiety provoking attitudes and mind-states over to you.
Like I’ve already said, as a kid you’ll tend to believe things your parents believe. So for example, if mom or dad used to avoid socialising with people whenever possible, you’ll think that’s the right thing to do as well, thus building in yourself the same anxiety disorder.
Were any people close to you, negative towards you?
Did anyone ever make comments to you like “You’re useless!” or “You’re always screwing things up!” ? Anyone who has generally directed negativity towards you would typically be one of the indirect causes.
When you’re told negative things about yourself enough times, you start to believe them. This creates an opinion that “I’m not worth much.”
That belief makes meeting people emotionally difficult because you feel inadequate.
Feeling inadequate is uncomfortable, so you might then start avoiding situations and people that make you feel inadequate. That avoidance behaviour is the real, overall cause of SAD.
Did any close relations neglect you?
If your parents didn’t give you much attention growing up, you probably came to the conclusion that “I’m not worthy of people’s affection, or time.”
That’s just the sort of belief that would make you feel inadequate in social situations. So you then avoid socializing to escape feelings of inadequacy.
That avoidance is what causes this whole disorder because with new “I must avoid any situation that makes me feel inadequate” behaviour, comes new anxiety ridden neural pathways in your subconscious mind.
Did your relatives show that they care what others think?
If your parents demonstrated to you that it’s important to win the approval of others, that could be one of the reasons why you suffer from social anxiety disorder.
They’ll have raised you to believe that you must always do the exact correct thing, or there will be bad consequences.
Once you’re looking for the perfect actions or words, the “what if I get it wrong?” fear can enter your head.
That fear can be one of the causes of an anxiety disorder getting worse because the more perfect you try to do things, the more dangerous your mind thinks it would be, if you did ‘get it wrong’.
Were your parents/guardians overprotective of you?
Did your parents rescue you whenever you felt uncomfortable in a situation? For example, in the early years of school, did your mother rescue you if you were crying in amongst your peers?
This sort of over-the-top neediness could unfortunately teach you that the best way to overcome a problem is to avoid it. You’re getting messages that it’s right to move away from people if you feel uncomfortable around them.
This type of avoidance mindset can be one of the causes of the disorder because it teaches your subconscious mind that people are threatening. Of course, our minds prepare us for threat with anxiety reactions.
2. Experiences In School or Work
School is where your first social interactions with peers happened. This was the place that your beliefs about yourself in relation to others developed.
Given that you didn’t really have any social beliefs about yourself before this, do you see how important the social aspect of school was, in deciding what you think of yourself?
Because school was the first real chance for you to mix with peers, those experiences could have been some of the crucial causes of social phobias. If bad stuff happened in school, you’d be starting your social life feeling inferior.
Rejection or bullying by peers
Life in school, college or work can be so mean! Other people can be ruthless. Some just haven’t learnt how to respect other people’s feelings yet.
This makes school, college or work life a real contributor to the development of social anxiety because there’s so many situations that could have made you feel overwhelmingly uncomfortable.
Did other people say or do generally nasty things to you during education or at work? If so, the discomfort it caused, would have made you think on some level “that felt horrible! I’ll do anything to avoid that feeling!”
You would then have started behaving in ways that allowed you to avoid the discomfort, and such behaviour is what causes the disorder.