September 27, 2022

What is the psychological mechanism of people with social anxiety?

Why is it that others can be generous and decent in interpersonal communication, but I am nervous? Others must find me weird. “Molly said that she has a psychological distance from all people. When others talk intimately, she always feels that she is stuck there like a telephone pole, which is very embarrassing.

Jasmine’s troubles are very common for people who are shy and socially anxious. They are often troubled by tendencies-avoidance conflicts-they are very eager to interact with others, but because they worry about others making negative criticisms and evaluations of themselves And avoid social activities.

“Individuals whose social skills have not been fully developed are like travelers who have just set foot on a foreign land. They do not understand the local language and cannot integrate into the local life. Therefore, even if it is as easy as making a simple request, they can do it. It will also appear very clumsy and naive,” said Philip Zimbardo, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. In 1977, he and his students established a shy clinic to study and treat shyness and social anxiety.

Based on 12 years of treatment practice and research results, Lynn Henderson, Zimbardo’s collaborator, American Center for Social Adaptation and founder of the Berkeley Institute for Shyness, wrote a psychology monograph “Shy and Social Anxiety Disorder” , Let us have a better understanding of the psychological mechanism of such groups.


Shy Three Cycle

In social situations, what changes have taken place in the hearts of those who are prone to being shy and socially anxious? Lynn Henderson’s “Shy Vicious Three Circles” theory clearly shows how people are contaminated with shyness and anxiety .

Let’s take Jasmine as an example. Half a year ago, Jasmine was invited to participate in an alumni networking event. She described it as a nightmare experience. She experienced the process of “shy vicious three cycles” completely.

The first loop:

After receiving the invitation to the event, Jasmine became anxious. She had imagined that scene many times: facing an unfamiliar alumnus, she was awkwardly speechless; or everyone could find a communication partner, and she was the only one sitting in her own position alone…when thinking of this, Her heart was full of fear. She is worried that she will behave badly, and she is afraid that her behavior will leave a bad impression on others. It is this kind of worry that made her have negative expectations for this event. These negative expectations have been continuously strengthened with her worry, which in turn made her worry more serious.

The second loop:

On the same day, she arrived at the hotel where the event was held half an hour earlier, but hesitated whether to walk in. She was so upset that she felt like she was sweating. She really wanted to escape home, but she was ashamed of her thoughts. Shame and reflection and guilt about her actions made it difficult for her to have the courage to take the first step to escape. Her heart is full of shame and self-blame, the two go back and forth. With this sense of shame and worry, she entered the hotel and entered the third cycle.

The third cycle:

When she entered the room, the activity had already begun. She didn’t know which table she should sit at, and stood awkwardly at the door. It took a while before someone led her to his seat. Everyone was listening to the host, and no one greeted her. She didn’t even have the mind to pay attention to the event site, immersed in her own bad feelings. She feels that no one takes her seriously, she has nothing to do. In the next link of free communication, the people next to her communicated with her, and she seemed very distant and cold. She felt that everyone at the table was harsh, contemptuous and full of malice, complaining secretly that others were selfish and not considerate of others. She turned the target of attack and accusation from the inside to the outside. At this time, self-blame and shame were reduced, and a feeling of anger and resentment rose from her heart.

She left before the event was over. This bad experience made her shut herself up.

We have seen that from the initial worry and fear to the final anger and resentment, in the three escalating cycles, negative emotions and feelings are continuously strengthened, which seriously affects the interpersonal relationship between Jasmine and others.


Bad cognition and improper attribution in social anxiety

People who are shy and socially anxious often have bad ideas about themselves and others. Shy people tend to blame themselves, label themselves, and think they have problems.

Once, a friend called me and said: “I dare not see you these days. It’s really embarrassing.” It turned out that she felt that her speech was terrible at a psychological salon organized by us the other day. . I carefully recalled her remarks, and didn’t feel anything wrong, but she had been feeling a strong sense of shame for a few days.

This kind of self-tagging plays a very important role in social anxiety. The same is true for Jasmine. She always thinks that others are generous and decent in social interactions, and only she is restrained and nervous. In fact, most people will feel nervous and scared more or less when entering unfamiliar social situations. The shy clinic’s research shows that shy college students and normal college students have very similar levels of shyness. This result shows that you are really not as bad as you think.

Self-labeling is a distortion of self-concept at the cognitive level. People who are shy and socially anxious have two distinct characteristics. One is a strong “public self-awareness”, that is, very concerned about the impression that oneself leaves on others. The second is keen “inner self-awareness”, keen attention to one’s thoughts and feelings. People with this characteristic often make accurate self-assessments. However, under the negative emotions of fear, shame, and anger, their inner self-awareness will make them inclined to self-criticism, produce negative and negative ideas, and show distorted and irrational ways of thinking, thus showing a distorted self-concept. . This concept of automation often occurs in the second vicious circle.

People who are shy and socially anxious often have this negative concept of automation towards others. They often think that others are examining and criticizing themselves, they are used to defining others with resentment, and they often blame others for being indifferent and not caring enough for themselves. One problem they often overlook is that it is their hostile, alienated, and indifferent attitudes and behaviors that keep others away from them. This concept of automation often occurs in the third vicious circle.

Improper attribution also plays an important role in social anxiety. Researchers have found that most people have a tendency to self-improvement, that is, they believe that most of their success is their own, and all failures are caused by external reasons. But a very interesting phenomenon is that people who are shy and socially anxious show a reverse bias-self-deprecation, that is, they believe that failure is caused by themselves, and all success is brought about by external factors. Therefore, they often think, “This time the exchange went smoothly because the other party was very friendly”; “It’s all because I can’t speak when I talk to heaven.” etc.


How to overcome social anxiety?

Lynn Henderson proposed a social adaptation training treatment model, through exposure therapy and social skills training, focusing on the following four aspects of treatment.

1. Change behavior.

People who are shy and socially anxious often have two behaviors in social situations: some people will withdraw and depress, refuse to communicate with others, and remain silent in the group; others are completely the opposite, they behave too active and use Talk endlessly to conceal inner anxiety, or unconsciously please others. They need a lot of training and hands-on practice to find a reasonable balance between the two.

2. Reduce physical arousal.

People who are shy and socially anxious are afraid of social situations and often have uncomfortable symptoms such as flushing, sweating, trembling, and rapid heart rate. This is because they think that all people see their own abnormalities, and their clumsiness has become obvious to the world. In fact, this is an exaggeration. Their physical condition is much better than they feel, and their unsuitability performance is not as obvious as imagined. If they don’t pay too much attention to their performance and feelings, even if they feel anxious, they can perform well according to their own wishes, and in the process, those unsuitable physiological states will eventually disappear.

3. Change bad way of thinking.

For people suffering from symptoms of shyness and social anxiety, their way of thinking is extremely destructive. They need to adjust their bad perceptions of themselves, others, and improper attribution styles. This is also a key and difficult point in overcoming social anxiety.

A male visitor of mine was bullied and mocked when he was a child, leaving a big psychological shadow. Although no one has bullied him since high school, he is still afraid of being bullied and has a grudge about what happened when he was a child, so he always avoids interacting with others. He has an irrational perception: “I was bullied.” Later, we explored a more appropriate perception: “When I was a child, I was bullied. Now I am an adult and can handle this problem properly.” This way of thinking makes him more courageous to interact with others.

4. Identify and adjust negative emotions.

Negative emotional states such as embarrassment, shame and guilt will exacerbate the external avoidance behavior of people who are shy and socially anxious. In the case of Jasmine, in the emotional state of shame, she will blame herself, feel that she is clumsy and incompetent, so she avoids social behavior. In the emotional state of anger, she will accuse others.

They often use an emotional reasoning method to reinforce their distorted self-concept. For example, a visitor thinks he is unattractive and always acts awkwardly. The consultant asked him what evidence he had to prove this belief? He would cite a series of negative feelings and sad experiences. His logic is: “Because I feel ashamed, I am an unattractive person. If I am an attractive person, how can I feel ashamed?”

“Previous research and clinical practice have made me understand that I cannot simply define and deal with shyness and social anxiety from the perspective of pathology or morbid body. On the contrary, I prefer to regard shyness and social anxiety as individual psychological and emotional A state of sub-health.” Lynn Henderson believes that people can change this state through hard work.

Studies have shown that people who are shy and socially anxious are often liked by others. Only when they are silent and silent, will they be a burden in the eyes of the counterparty, and they will show negative and negative responses.

In fact, shyness, anxiety, avoidance, withdrawal, and restlessness are situations that everyone may encounter. No one is naturally good at socializing, and no one can cope with any situation. Social adaptation is a process of continuous accumulation and continuous arrival. Therefore, we are all on the road.