What are the Socially Anxious Worried About?

Social anxiety is driven by concern with one or more (usually there is one in particular that a person is focused on) factors; Concerns about

  1. Social skills and behaviors
  2. Visible signs of anxiety
  3. Physical appearance
  4. Personality

These concerns lead to both hyper-vigilance of the slightest cue from others of negative response to one’s central concern, and when any such cue is noticed, then an over-reaction of arousal, anxiety and then a fight or flight reaction is triggered. When flight is chosen, then avoidance behaviors include withdrawals of self-disclosure (for example with those with concerns about social skills or personality), that in turn leads to the further negative outcome of blocking the development of authentic relationships with others, and inhibiting the regulation of one’s emotions. Fight (or approach) in this scenario will often involve asking an excessive number of questions (to deflect attention from oneself) or over-rehearsing what one wants to say (to avoid any uncertainty from dangerous spontaneity). The self flaw that socially anxious individuals seem most scared of revealing is that of social incompetence.

What’s the source of all of this? A problem with tolerating lack of certainty and lack of control. We have no idea what we look like through another’s eyes and we have no way of controlling what they think of us, and so the socially anxious will go to extremes to try to hedge that bet.

But what causes this intolerance of uncertainty and of letting go of what one can’t control? Most likely lack of love, lack of a secure attachment to someone else which would enable one to better accept who they are and let go of others perceptions of and reactions to them.

So develop warm relationships with parents and especially peers, go out those friends, get laid, Remember, poor friendship quality is what causes social anxiety, not the other way around.



Moscovitch, D. A., Rowa, K., Paulitzki, J. R., Antony, M. M., & McCabe, R. E. (2015). What If I Appear Boring, Anxious, or Unattractive? Validation and Treatment Sensitivity of the Negative Self Portrayal Scale in Clinical Samples.Cognitive Therapy and Research, 39(2), 178-192.

Moscovitch, D. A., Waechter, S., Bielak, T., Rowa, K., & McCabe, R. E. (2015). Out of the shadows and into the spotlight: Social blunders fuel fear of self-exposure in social anxiety disorder. Journal of anxiety disorders, 34, 24-32.

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