Is Social Anxiety Caused by Environmental Factors?

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?
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.

environmental factiors
Rewrite: Environmental Factors

One thought on “Is Social Anxiety Caused by Environmental Factors?

  1. I remember reading this article before. Hormones can do so much, and it’s actually alarming that both your daughters noticed they suffer from social anxiety when taking contraceptives. I think more young women must have this same problem. And I totally agree with you that social media enforces feelings of not being good enough. Great article, May, with food for thought.
    ~ Marie xox

Comments welcome

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: