About a year old* and until now unpublished, here comes an essay about social anxiety theory and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (the main treatment for social anxiety disorders); following a Social Phobia diagnosis a few years prior**…
Social Anxiety, part 1: defining social anxiety disorders
‘Normality’ is an ill defined, but eagerly used benchmark for human behaviour that has always confused me. The tricky bit is that normality does not exist, and everybody knows it but pretend that it is the standard for how people behave. There does not exist a normal person. Everybody is unique and different in some way.
People’s perceptions of what it is to be normal – what others might think about them and how they ought to behave – depend on culture, gender, age and many other factors, but any culture has a zone of normality defined by subtle rules, exceptions and grey areas. And in any culture, the need to belong and the fear of social exclusion shapes behaviours, personalities, the way people relate to each other and who they accept. Mild worrying about what others might think is a normal and benevolent aspect of being a social creature.
Social anxiety helps us to remain sensitive to the feelings and needs of others, which is a core foundation of cooperation and building relationships.
However, social fear can spin out of control and damage social confidence and the ability to pursue a fulfilling life. That is when social anxiety becomes a disorder.