Like most disorders related to mental health, social anxiety disorder presents itself with physical and psychological symptoms. Fortunately, these symptoms are not hard to spot and a professional can diagnose this condition quite easily.
Although social anxiety is quite common, experts are not sure about what causes this condition to arise. Most people believe that genetic and environmental factors play a role in leading to this condition, while others believe that traumatic experiences in the past are stronger stimuli that lead to the development of social anxiety. Some of these traumatic experiences can include:
Individuals that have been emotionally or physically bullied in their past are more likely to develop social anxiety, as they constantly fear being judged or called out on their shortcomings. Do keep in mind that bullying is not always limited to the schoolyard variety – one can be bullied by family and friends too and often, the realisation of the same can be an important breakthrough for those who suffer from social anxiety.
A dysfunctional family is one of the most prominent causes of anxiety disorders like social anxiety. As children grow accustomed to a chaotic and often harmful environment, they grow up anticipating the worst of every social situation or encounter, which leads to high levels of anxiety over the same.
Sexual abuse, which can come in the form of both, early exposure to sex via pornographic content, or physical abuse ranging from inappropriate touch to intercourse, can contribute to the development of anxiety in children and adults. Often, victims of sexual abuse internalise a sense of shame regarding their experience, which manifests as anxiety and self-doubt, making them feel out of control in social situations.
Other than traumatic experiences, experts believe that social anxiety can also stem from genetic factors. An imbalance in the serotonin levels in the brain can lead to social anxiety as serotonin is a hormone that’s primarily responsible for controlling one’s mood. Similarly, individuals with an overactive amygdala can also suffer from this disorder as they are unable to regulate the fear response as well as thoughts or feelings of anxiety.
Like many other mental health conditions, social anxiety can also run in the family, however, researchers are not sure whether anxiety manifests in children as learned behaviour on observing a parent with the same, or whether there is a genetic component that plays a role.
Every individual aspires to achieve set ideals in his/her life. However, those who suffer from social anxiety may find more obstacles in their careers than those that don’t. The following are some of the main ways in which social anxiety damages your career:
Improving visibility in the workplace means taking action that contributes to recognition from your boss or peers, and is one of the most important goals for many professionals. Social media has created a world that places a lot of importance on the image that we present to others, and a huge part of creating the right image is being able to talk about your achievements (respectfully, without bragging) and ensuring that the right people notice you.
When you suffer from social anxiety, you’re less likely to speak to people, let alone inform them about the projects you are working on and how well they are going. Even if you are doing an outstanding job, the harsh reality is that professionals that keep their head down and work diligently go unnoticed, while professionals that work well but also build relationships with their superiors stand at the receiving end of promotions and benefits. The inability to promote yourself and present an image of a leader can be quite detrimental to your career.
Often, leadership and managers take asking intelligent questions as a sign of an active mind that’s listening to what’s being said. Additionally, many believe that people who remain silent while receiving a brief or project are more likely to make mistakes as they either could not think far ahead enough to ask questions, or did not fully understand what was required. Not asking questions sometimes can also be mistaken for having an apathetic attitude towards work, which can be quite disastrous for your career.
If you suffer from social anxiety, you know how hard it can be to ask a simple question. You may find yourself agonizing over the same for hours on end, and then realising that it’s either too late to ask, or that others have surpassed you in their work.
You may have heard people talk about how they thrive under pressure. A little bit of anxiety often does a great job of fueling the brain to work faster and smarter, however, a lot of social anxiety often has the opposite effect, making people feel paralysed with the fear of being judged for doing an inadequate job.
Most projects in the workplace come with specific deadlines and often, the anxiety over meeting those deadlines leads to individuals missing them altogether. Of course, there is no workplace that takes missing deadlines lightly, which is why people suffering from social anxiety often end up suffering in their careers too.
Speaking with strangers is often one of the biggest challenges for those who suffer from social anxiety. While you may not associate this fear with disastrous consequences in life (we’re often taught to stay away from strangers!), it can lead to negative outcomes in crucial situations like job interviews.
Most interviewers understand that the little bit of nerves or shyness is quite natural in a situation where one is being evaluated. However, with social anxiety, the symptoms reduce individuals to absolute wrecks that cannot highlight their best qualities. Even when someone may be perfectly suited to a job role, they may not be able to describe their past achievements as well as how or why they deserve the job. As a result, they are often overlooked and discarded in favour of a candidate that may be better at communicating verbally.
Success in the workplace depends on many factors. While the quality of the work you offer plays an important role in determining how far you will go, other external factors such as the people who choose to mentor you, the doors your colleagues open for you, and whether you build a great rapport with your team all impact the trajectory that your career takes.
When you suffer from social anxiety, making these important relationships can be quite hard. You must open yourself up to people in order for them to trust you and help you, and the idea of doing the same can be quite terrifying for those who feel anxious at the thought of speaking to someone. As a result of this, you may feel as though your peers are being favoured by their bosses while yours mostly just assign work and move on. Networking is an inescapable part of working in any company, and not being able to do so can certainly impact your career.
No matter what field you work in, at some point, you must interact with clients or stakeholders in your company if you want to move up the corporate ladder. This shows your organisation’s leadership that you can handle roles that go beyond just focusing on daily deliverables.
However, professionals that suffer from social anxiety may find themselves clamming up in front of clients, even when they are brimming over with the best ideas and solutions to their problems. This can paint an inaccurate picture of your capabilities as a professional, and cause you to be passed over for that promotion. Of course, even for those that do not want a client-facing role, social anxiety can cause similar problems during impromptu meetings with leadership and stakeholders.
Many companies hold monthly and weekly meetings to stay on top of workflow and challenges. During these meetings, pertinent employees must speak up about past performances along with what their bosses can expect from their teams in the coming week. This can be a very terrifying situation for people who have social anxiety as it immediately puts them on the spot. The sudden attention coupled with the pressure to provide valuable insights can be too much for the person, leading to a bit of a meltdown when things get tough.
If you value your alone-time, you know that the lunch break often works as a great period for quietly going over the day that’s gone by. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating your lunch alone in peace, however, this is often interpreted as an anti-social activity and definitely alienates your colleagues. In the workplace, with people prone to making snap judgements, this can mean further alienation by reciprocal behaviour at the hands of your colleagues, making you feel more miserable than ever. Furthermore, it also means that your name will rarely crop up when teams divvy up employees and projects, leading to a major set-back in your career thanks to not getting the most coveted projects.
One of the key aspects of hunting for a new job is providing potential employers with references from previous ones. When you spend most of your time alone and do not interact with others, this reflects in your references too. For instance, if your potential employer enquires whether you are a team player, the answer, unfortunately, may be a strong no, leading to a possible rejection.
Hypnotherapy can go a long way in treating social anxiety. This is because it does not only help you build your confidence and self-esteem, but also helps you identify where the anxiety is coming from so that you can deal with it in an effective manner. Understanding your triggers, minimising the way your mind reacts to them, and improving your ability to navigate your way through social situations can really help give your career the boost that it needs. Do not dismiss social anxiety as a minor condition that you don’t need to seek help for! Instead, speak to a professional and ensure your continual success.