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Is Social Anxiety Caused by Environmental Factors?

This article first appeared here on Sex Matters before it was rewritten for Medium, and is now back on my blog for the Wicked Wednesday prompt of REWRITE. The prompt made me think about all the Sex Matters blog posts I have heavily rewritten and edited and put over to Medium. It is a good habit to get into, as not only do I edit – when it is a factual story like this – I tend to do extra research and add references as well. It becomes a more rounded read.

Social anxiety is an intense fear or dread of social or performance situations.

Content Notice ~ Mental health topics discussed…

Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is an intense fear or dread of social or performance situations. This might happen before, during or after the event.

Symptoms may include:

  • racing thoughts.
  • uncontrollable over-thinking.
  • difficulties concentrating.
  • feelings of dread, panic or ‘impending doom.’

Throughout my life I’ve had to attend quite a few large conferences or exhibitions where there was the challenge of socialising with new acquaintances. During these situations I was usually excited, occasionally a little nervous, and always by the end feeling overstimulated. But at no time did I experienced social anxiety… I am one of the lucky ones.

General Environmental Factors

Considering that I’m an introvert — very happy with my own company — I became curious as to why social anxiety had never really knocked at my door — and began to wonder if people are predisposed to social anxiety?

A councillor friend suggested anxiety may be genetic but is probably more influenced by environmental factors.

Environmental factors are external influences that can affect an individual’s health and wellbeing.

I was quite a loner as a child but kids still chose to play with me. Then, at secondary school, I started to bloom and was thought of as attractive. I became self-assured. (This may have been the result of my Mum having so much belief in me.)

Perhaps these two factors contributed to me being socially gregarious. Don’t get me wrong I have never been overconfident or possessed a massive ego but nevertheless I’ve always had an inner sense of self. I believed and still believe in me…

I got to thinking about my own children. At one point after a dreadful car accident my eldest child stopped going out and mixing all together. This was understandable, so I didn’t panic. I let her work through it. But the social anxiety persisted for nearly two years, and there was quite a bit of school bullying along the way. However, eventually she began socialising again, and I immediately noticed she was naturally very self-aware and although didn’t like being the centre of attention was mature and confident when around people.

However, this all changed for her after taking the contraceptive pill…

Artificial Hormones

She became generally anxious and began suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder — SAD.

At the time, I just thought it was something she was going through, but when my other daughter told me that she too was having anxiety problems and had developed an Eating Disorder shortly after having her first contraceptive implant — I carried out a little research regarding artificial hormones.

Artificial hormones have an effect on different areas of the brain and nervous system. It appears this may be the reason behind why some women suddenly begin to experience symptoms of anxiety, depression or are plagued with other mental health related issues.

Of course, this does not apply across the board. But in my opinion should be taken into consideration when choosing a contraceptive solution.

About eighteen months ago both my daughters decided to stop using hormonal contraceptives. The eldest had her first winter in several years with only mild symptoms of SAD. And my other daughter found the inner strength to start focusing on ways to improve her relationship with food.

I am not saying it is all suddenly perfect, but they both seem to have actively made a step in the right direction.

False Sense of Self

Is Social Anxiety Caused by Environmental Factors? – Image by KLEITON Santos from Pixabay

Putting hormones aside — In many ways, the present climate must be difficult for the young to navigate socially. As a teen if I wanted interaction I would perhaps talk on the phone, or sneak out to the park and sit on the swings chatting. Today, all this can be done in the cosy security of the kid’s bedroom on a mobile or laptop. Perhaps this gives a false sense of self, as so many understated cues can only be read when you hear a person’s voice or see their face when talking.

Without these signs it’s easy to become confused whether you are a big duck in a small pond or vice versa…

When I was researching mental health, in the name of my daughters, I came across an article in the guardian. I will say it is a couple of years old and opens with this sweeping statement…

The number of young people in the UK who say they do not believe that life is worth living has doubled in the last decade, amid a sense of overwhelming pressure from social media which is driving feelings of inadequacy, new research suggests.

And goes on to water the above overview down slightly. But the statistics still show social media is not always an uplifting experience for young people. Indeed, my eldest daughter has recently changed the way she communicates by turning off all phone notifications.

This way she is in charge of her phone, not the other way around.

Social Media

When I was sixteen I remember staying in all week to wait for that call, from that boy and feeling elated when he finally plucked up the courage to ring, the endorphins flowed. Now it is often the case that the teen waits for that like on that selfie to get the same feeling. I don’t believe it’s easy for them. Anxiety is bound to arise when it is time to actually leave the bedroom and meet peers face to face.

Even the guardian says…

Social media reinforces those feelings of not being good enough.

So, in the difficult times of lock down and various restrictions, how the hell does a kid then leave the safety of their home and face a group of people in a social situation?

All power and respect to those who do…

This Medium article by Michael Papas explores how alcohol is not very helpful in taming social anxiety. But meditation is.

If you want to read further information about Social Anxiety, then check out this reference — from Rethink Mental Illness.

Rewrite: Environmental Factors

Fiction Marathon Feedback: Round One, 2022

I loved this round. It challenged the writers, but also got the best out of them. It is very difficult to put across all you want to convey in such a short word count. In my opinion, round one of the marathon is the hardest one.

The Fiction Marathon Round One Assignment Specification

Write a sentence that evokes fear.
Only ONE sentence
15-35 words

The voting page will contain all the stories and feedback from readers and writers for all the stories, in the comments section…

What I was looking for when giving feedback for round one of the Fiction Marathon:

Everyone looks for different things when reading through a list of entries like this. I am a very visual writer. When I pen a story, I am just putting words to the images I see in my head. So in this round I was looking for a picture, conveyed in a scene or setting. I like brave writing but am not keen on overwriting, particularly when the word count is so low. I wanted the sentence to flow as a whole without being too concerned whether the writer used 15 or 35 words. There is such a short time to impress the reader, so beware of being too clichéd.

I was hoping to feel fear while I read a sentence, and as a writer it may be easier to evoke fear when writing in the 1st or 2nd person. Also, l was looking out for those who made the title work for them. As in, rather than picking the title to say what is going on in the sentence, use it to give the reader more information.

NB: I wrote notes on all the stories before I knew who had written them…

So here is my feedback.

When reading feedback, please remember that what we personally like to read is very subjective. I pull from my own experiences in life and writing when commenting on other’s words, but that does not mean I know better than anybody else. The judges might not all agree, and similarly there will be a wide range across readers votes. What I am trying to say is, do not take things too much to heart with regard to feedback. Simply try and take something constructive from it through to the next round.

My Feedback for Round One Fiction Marathon

Photo by Faruk Tokluoğlu on


  1. Feeding Time

I like the confidence in this sentence – to use a made up phrase you need to be sure of your own abilities.

I wondered would the beast not smell the baby anyhow?

  1. *Dangerous Driveway*

I think the first part of the sentence could have been constructed better. But this is a minor observation.

Wow. Now this did evoke fear in me. I heard the crunch too. Well done.

  1. *Hiding place?*

I Like the “silent safety” alteration as later the noise of the baby breaks the quiet and also the safety, and this is what evokes the fear.

I think you did a great job.

  1. Not alone

Great atmosphere in this sentence. A chilling mix with the smells and tempreture.

I think it should be “swings” not “swung.”

  1. Soul death

Oh how I would like to know what the actions were.

The thought of someone I had a strong bond with leaving evoked a scary, sad, regret in me.

  1. The Afterlife

You have given us so much to chew on in this sentence. It does feel a little like two.

However, what a horrific scene that evoked a lot of fear in me.

  1. Broken Silence

A relatively straight forward sentence which flows nicely. I would have just had her naked.

I can image being that woman and how my heart would jump with fear! Good job.

  1. The Corridor

I think it should be “crept” not “creeping”. So much going on in a short sentence, which provided great visuals. The title could perhaps have told us more about the corridor.

This felt like a dream so didn’t really evoke fear.

  1. Hunted

I could really visualise this scene. I’m not sure she chose a great hiding place though.

I felt she was going to be found immediately and this got my heart beating faster.

  1. *Deep Cut*

This works brilliantly in the second person. After all you are trying to evoke fear in the reader. So well done. Love the way you have used ‘burn/ice-cold’.

You completed scared me! Full of fear… I may not sleep for a week 🙂

  1. *Daddy’s Rapture*

Oh, this is so evil. I am feeling horror rather than fear, but they are often linked. Love the simplicity of this sentence – no prisoners taken here. Well done.

  1. Groaking Feast

I am not sure I understand this sentence. I think he must have been approaching the food. You were brave using ‘groaking’ but I didn’t feel fear when reading, but perhaps that is because I have never been starving.

  1. Old Church

I liked the ghostly feel of this one and the straight forward nature of the narrative. Not sure it evokes fear in me though.

  1. God’s Bathroom

Great title and you have left us in no doubt about the horrific scene. I would like to know who is holding the needle.

  1. Dreaming

Nicely done. I can visualise them watching and waiting until the time is right. I think you had room to amp up the fear although I like the swift change from gentle (soft/sweet) to loud (screams/symphony).

  1. Something Approaches

Not keen on the title. Although you have made good use of the word count to set a chilling scene for the reader. You could lose “that” and it does read a little like 2 sentences.

  1. Blood Kiss

Quite a cliched scene but a fantastic sentense. The first few words told me what to expect but I liked “shocked convulsions” and “questioning terror.”

  1. Remnants

This is horrid and scary. Well done. The title works for the story too. I would have used a different phrase to “spitting image.” Perhaps a “death echo.”

  1. Until Proven

This made me think about the whole bazaar concept that strangers can decide a person fate, which happens in the legal system. The fear came in late, but was there.

  1. Fear

Thinking of a dog whimpering when you can’t see why is scary. I think I would have liked to know what type of dog. If it was a Germon Shepard for example, I would have really been worried. I presumed the “him” is an unwanted person.

  1. Unpleasant Surprise

Abandoned houses are scary places but I need to know more about why this room could be horrifying. However, very intrigued about the plastic wrap.

  1. *Stung*

A very real frightening experience here. Described well. Plus, the title tells us more about the sentence. Great job. Personally, I would not have used crept twice. It can work to repeat like that, but usually in longer stories.

  1. Kissing Surprise

A cliched fear situation but I often find vampire scenes very sexy. A nicely written sentence though.

  1. Running Scared

This is something that would frighten me for sure. Being followed late at night. I don’t think the flirty text is needed.

  1. Baby Doll

That would be a horrifying thing to happen. Not sure about using “toddler”, – perhaps something more personal, such as a name or endearment.

  1. *Innocence Punished*

I like that the guillotine was almost mocking the person about to lose their life – “sang”. I also think the title is good as it adds to the story, telling us the person was not guilty. Well done.

  1. *Copied Cat*

The fear comes from her words being ripped and stole from her soul and the dreaded writer’s block(dead muse). Well-structured and a brave idea. Love the originality.

  1. Death Wish

Very true. The situation would be dreadful. But I need more to feel fear. You mention an event but don’t tell me more about it.

  1. Raptor

Love the continued hawking theme. And the imagery is very scary. I think you could have left a few words out. But I am spare writer and I realise you wanted to make the very most of the word count.

  1. Jarring Emptiness

The two “this” words so close together meant the sentence didn’t flow for me when I began reading, but after, I have to say the idea put across does evoke fear in me.

I have *stared the titles* of my 7 favourites. But, well done to all the writers. I think this is the strongest round one I have seen in the fiction marathon and the smut marathon.

Have a read of Hardison Parker’s experience of this round.

Here’s a short story I wrote all about fear.

Header Image by Republica from Pixabay