How can public speaking anxiety impact you?

Public speaking anxiety is a specific social anxiety which has been shown to affect 30 to 43 percent of the total US population.

These individuals claimed that this is their number one fear – over heights, sickness, death, etc.

Yet so much of professional and personal responsibilities demand that one is a good and confident public speaker…

When looking at this statistics it is not a surprise to know that many worry when they are about to give a public presentation or they avoid it all together.

If they cannot avoid it, then they “survive” through it with extreme discomfort.

The fear of getting up in front of a crowd can be source of great psychological distress, which further fuels the fear that one will make serious mistakes when they speak.

It is not surprising to note that people who are otherwise comfortable in other social situation would feel so immobilized and fearful when they have to get in front of a group.

This kind of performance anxiety which includes stage fright, public speaking anxiety, or audience anxiety is very familiar even amongst professional whose job it is to perform on stage.

public speaking anxiety
public speaking anxiety

What are the physiological responses of public speaking anxiety

Research shows that when people have performance anxiety, including public speaking anxiety, they experience extreme physiological changes in the anticipation or during the performance.

These changes include increased heartbeats, cardiac abnormalities such as palpitations, increase in level of neurotransmitters, and increase in blood pressure.

Research has also known that people with social phobia show a high activation of right cerebral hemispheres, demonstrating extreme intensity of their fear. This activation can negatively affect both the logical and verbal preparation for the speaking task.

These bodily changes result in some or all of following cardiovascular symptoms: an awareness of increased heart rate; blushing; feeling of light-headedness followed by a fear of fainting; nauseous feelings; tremors; etc.

In addition to physiological symptoms, many patients also experience racing thoughts that envision that they will fail, faint, or about to be humiliated.

Performance Anxiety

All of these psychological and physiological responses combine to illicit feelings of fear of the performance or the humiliation when and if the performance gets messed up.

Along with this behaviour, performance or public speaking anxietydoes not only result from the actual performance but also from the anticipation of performing.

This is then referred to as the “anticipatory anxiety” as people worry about the upcoming public speaking task and the catastrophe that can occur once they start speaking.

It is interesting to note that even the most experienced performers have the physical responses of fear such as rapid heart rate, palpitations, shakiness before they go up to perform, even when they are so used to performing.

This means that all people experience these responses whey they perform, but only people with social phobia interpret these responses as fear.

They have anxiety-provoking thoughts such as inadequacy, anticipation of punishment, criticism, and loss of stature in front of the audience in case they make mistakes.

One may want to question why exactly does our body have all these responses when we experience public speaking anxiety. The only possible answer is the performing in front of people arouses those primitive feelings of dominance / submission on a subconscious level.

Performance is seen as open display of performer’s strength, skill, and perhaps self-worth. In some way it is seen as an attempt for increased status or a challenge to one’s peers and superiors.

Such risk of open display is open to negative judgments and criticism, resulting in potential loss of status. In short, public speaking invites the door to being evaluated by your peers.

Most importantly, when one is public speaking there is no opportunity for immediate feedback.

One has to wait for the audience’s reaction until the end the performance, thus building this anticipation of being judged and perceived in a negative way.

Fear of shyness as another kind of specific social anxiety

Another kind of specific social anxiety entails covering up for your phobia or shyness…

It can be the case that people who experience social phobia feel the need to compensate for their shyness and phobia.

Many of us might take path of being extroverts and “act” to be outgoing, while being extremely frightened and anxious inwardly.

In this case there is a fear in revealing our timid, shy selves to the world because that would make us appear to be weak.

Fear of shyness as specific social anxiety
Fear of shyness as specific social anxiety

A Specific social anxiety: How does fear of shyness affect those who are socially anxious

Interesting enough, this kind of behavior has strong semblance to the realm of “acting”. It is no wonder that some people, like me, have also dealt with social phobia by immersing themselves in acting.

This reliance on “acting” can be means to compensate for otherwise debilitating effects of social phobia. Of course, different people take on “acting” in different degrees, depending on their external situations.

People may take on the “roles” that their professions require, performing the tasks that are part of their professional duties.

For example, a doctor may play the role of a doctor who can treat the patients with care and responsibility. A receptionist may play the role of the receptionist who is able to handle the work of a busy office.

However, deep inside they could equally be feeling the symptoms, the nervousness, and anxiety associated with social phobics.

In other words, people can act the roles and even hide behind these roles while still feeling frightened and anxious of social situations.

In some cases, playing out these roles helps people in distancing themselves from self-conscious and self-critical thoughts.

However, their social phobia can still resurface when they are no longer “playing their part”. For example, symptoms of social phobia become apparent when they come back home, where they no longer are in their professional part.

People with this kind of specific social phobia often say that they are just able to “say the right thing” and “play the life of the party”. Taking on these roles allows them to be social and functional. However, deep-inside they still experience near crippling and aching anxiety.

This kind of making up for lack of emotional stability is not good for the most part because it can only work in certain situations. If one is not free in their body, they can get stuck playing the same role or performing the same job.

For example, they might become so comfortable in one “act” that they are afraid to move up the professional ladder for fear of not being able to perform the next role.

This role-taking allows people with social phobia with some kind of stability and structure, so they are able to turn their attention away from signs and symptoms of anxiety and focus on their performance.

The drawback to such compensation is that it can work well in the short term but it could also prevent the person from developing better ways of dealing and overcoming their social phobia.

Does fear of eating in public, a specific social anxiety, affect you?

Fear of eating in public is another specific social anxiety that affects people who suffer from social anxiety…

Research has shown that inability to eat in public or in presence of others is one of the most common issues experienced by people who have social phobia.

People are unable to eat in restaurants or even in their homes when guests, family members, or friends are present. People are afraid of being scrutinized over their behavior by people beside them.

They worry that their hands will tremble in front of others. They are concerned they will spill their food or miss their mouth or that they might choke or vomit over their food.

This is particularly true for the elderly people who, at some point, are not able to hold things in their hands without trembling.

As the humiliation and shame of not being able to perform this simple task grows, so does the social anxiety and the thoughts of “what will others think of me?”

fear of eating in public as specific social anxiety
Fear of eating in public as specific social anxiety

How can this specific social anxiety affect people on a day to day basis?

As this social distress increases, it is possible that people become fearful that they will choke on their food. As a result, people begin to eat less and less in public.

Of course, the more prominent or “elegant” the company surrounding people with this social anxiety, the higher the risk of something “bad” happening.

To deal with this issue, people begin devising complex strategies to avoid situations that would require eating in public.

They might carefully choose to go to a restaurant that is informal and not crowded. They might choose foods that do not require a lot of finesse with hands.

As a result, soup, pastas (such as spaghetti), and hand-eaten foods are avoided, so are drinks that come in smaller glasses, such as champagne, wine goblets, or delicate teacups.

Like the other kinds of specific social anxiety, it is often challenging to know exactly what the source of this particular phobia is.

There can be a number of things, including childhood issues or some particular event that led one to feel uncomfortable with eating in public.

The purpose of going to therapy or doing self-help for this phobia entails being able to pin down this critical source or trigger. Once this happens, the healing can happen in a more profound way.

It is important to not undermine how this social anxiety can affect people’s ability to interact with others.

Food, in all cultures across the world, is fundamental to our social life and how we, as humans, connect and bond with each other.

Not being able to fully participate in this bonding ritual can cause significant amount of pain and isolation for the affected individuals.

The “Bashful” bladder syndrome as specific social anxiety

Although this specific social anxiety is not very well-known amongst the general public, it has been identified as an issue by some people who experience social phobia.

This condition is also known as “paruresis” and can be described as the inability to urinate in public restrooms.

It is a kind of specific social anxiety that is most prevalent in men. Some studies have suggested that it affects somewhere from 14 to 32 percent of males.

Within this range, some of these people simply experience delayed urination or, in more extreme, cannot urinate at all.

Bashful bladder syndrome as specific social anxiety
Bashful bladder syndrome as specific social anxiety

What happens to people with this specific social anxiety?

People with this condition are affected by various external situations.

Each individual has their own external stimuli which trigger them to either wait to urinate until they get over their anxiety or not urinate at all.

Some people are unable to urinate when they are in certain proximity to other individuals (such as in public restrooms). Others are fine in presence of strangers but not when friends and family are around.

Yet others are comfortable using public stalls when there is visual privacy, but no auditory privacy.

Some are completely uncomfortable with using public washrooms.

Many are also afraid of using bathrooms in their own homes in the presence of others since they fear that other people are able to hear them in the washrooms.

In some cases, this may appear to be a small nuisance; however, this issue can be experienced so intensely that people with this phobia have to make serious changes in their lifestyle.

An example can include two partners living in different parts of the house because one partner does not feel comfortable going to the bathroom while the other partner is close by.

Of course, those who are affected by this condition, find work, leisure, and school situations to be intolerable.

People shy away and are terrified from using stalls while watching games and concerts, or when at work or in dormitories.

Any kind of public get together can be a source of major psychological and physical discomfort.

It is interesting to note that people with this specific social anxiety develop immense ways to regulate their fluid intake and timing to restrict their urination.

Often people describe themselves as not ever feeling comfortable and, at the same time, always troubled by the need or the fear to need to urinate.

People often invest time to learn locations of isolated or unused restrooms in their places of work, school, or other areas where often go.

This kind of specific social phobia has not been well-understood as much as other social phobia.

However, it is important to appreciate that the process of urination is a complex function which requires interaction of sympathetic and parasympathetic components of the automatic nervous system. The automatic nervous system relaxes the urethra and contracts the bladder.

Anxiety can interrupt this process and constrict one’s ability to urinate normally.

Studies on this condition have attributed this problem with “body shyness” in which people are uncomfortable undressing, showering, and the like in front of others who are of the same sex.

Anecdotal accounts suggest that people are not necessarily embarrassed when performing routine body functions.

Instead, their anxiety, self-consciousness, and self-monitoring affects the automatic bodily processes which prevents them from urinating.

Telephone phobia as a specific social anxiety

Speaking on the phone is another specific social anxiety that affects a number of people…

Telephone phobia is a bit counter-intuitive when one considers the context of social phobia.

This is because one would assume that people who are afraid of making face-to-face contact with people would not have any issues or pressures when communicating on the phone.

However, this is not so. People can face social phobia when dealing with a phone conversation.

This is because of a few reasons. Firstly, people with social anxiety worry that they would make some inappropriate response on the phone, in that they may break some rule of how phone conversations should occur.

Telephone phobia as specific social anxiety
Telephone phobia as specific social anxiety

Telephone mannerisms are sometimes more challenging to learn.

This is because unlike face-to-face conversation which can be learned through imitation, people do not normally have the opportunity to observe both sides of the phone conversation.

What can happen to people with this specific social anxiety?

So the thought process of a person with this social anxiety would be “am I doing something that wrong that the other person will notice?”

Some fear that they would not know what to say resulting in uncomfortable silences and faltering conversation.

This is particularly more heightened as there is no face to face contact and cues to gauge the other person’s communication.

As a phone conversation breaks, it may result the socially anxious person’s voice to change, squeak, or quiver. Furthermore, it may lead to stuttering or other embarrassing behavior that shows incompetence or weakness.

People who experience this specific social anxiety often rely on other family members to respond to the telephone at home.

It seems more “safe” to know the name of the caller and the reason for the call when someone else answers the phone. It allows the people with social phobia the time to prepare for their interaction on the phone.

This means that the voicemail would be a special blessing for people with telephone phobia.

People with phone-related social phobia are able to handle routine calls but it is the calls that require spontaneous, prolonged conversations that they fear.

Evaluative calls from people of authority, like bosses, teachers, lawyers, potential dates are more threatening because one is constantly afraid of being critiqued and evaluated.

It is possible that people with telephone phobia experience only this kind of social phobia and do not have trouble with other kind of social interactions.

In this case this would be a very specific kind of social anxiety.

However, this problem is more multi-layered for someone who experiences generalized social anxiety. In this case, people are often afraid of any kind of social situation which requires communication with strangers.

This way the anxiety over conversing with unknown people on the phone is even more enhanced.

Fear of writing in public can impact on day to day life of people. Do you have this specific social anxiety?

Fear of writing in public is another specific social phobia that affects significant number of people.

A 1988 survey of social fears among in greater St. Louis are found that 2.8 percent of the population had this issue.

This fear may appear to be slight in nature, but having this kind of specific social anxiety can lead to serious issues in people’s abilities to perform tasks in public.

The underlying cause of this kind of phobia is the fear that observers will see the writer shaking, scribbling, or scrawling. It inclues the fear that one may not be able to write letters legibly or properly.

People facing this specific social anxiety also fear that they will “freeze” and not complete the task at all.

All of these fears and anxieties lead the socially anxious person to get into the thinking trap that “other people will think that I am incompetent, stupid, or ridiculous.”

In some way, this biological behaviour can be explained by connecting it to the ancient, evolutionary fears. These fears include exhibiting weakness and vulnerability in front of others, who may be potential dominants or critics.

Fear of writing in public as a specific social anxiety
Fear of writing in public as a specific social anxiety

The fear of writing in public is a very common form of social phobia. A National Institutes of Mental Health study in 1991 concluded that this is the third most common fear of people with social phobia.

Writing in front of other people is an indication of a larger “problem” or issue of performing tasks under the watchful eyes of others.

It is relatively difficult task to perform in public for socially anxious people because it requires fine motor skills.

If one is too tense, it can cause one’s hands to shake and tremble, yet another fear of people with social anxiety.

People who experience this specific social anxiety often notice this fear of writing while they stand in checkout lines at stores.

They feel that people behind them in the line are impatient and want them finish their work / chore quickly. Hence. they experience a certain need to “perform”.

For example, while standing in a line at a bank, a socially anxious individual may make a mistake while writing on their check and needing to do the task again. This may lead them to be extremely anxious about writing on the check again.

Although small in its nature, the inability to write can have implications in that people may not be able to write on blackboards in front of other people. They might be nervous about using keyboards or be unable to write and sign checks or credit cards, or sign documents. This can lead to dysfunction in day-to-day life.

This phobia can also make larger tasks like renting cars, staying in hotels, applying for loans much more difficult.

In general the more important the transaction is, the greater the anxiety.

Papers needing witnessed signature can be a source of major threat to the person’s psychological and economic well-being.

What can potentially help people, in this case, is doing the fear hierarchy exercise which can help people deal with their fear in small steps.

Fear of shopping, a specific social anxiety, can haunt some people. Find more about it and what you can do about your fear.

When one has specific social anxiety, the anxiety results from particular situation and does not necessarily arise in other situations.

In contrast to specific social anxiety, people with generalized social anxiety are not only anxious in certain social situation, but they also fear meeting new people in casual or formal settings.

Shopping, in some socially anxious people, is a social phobia which brings yet another opportunity to be distressed about being watched or meeting someone in the mall or store.

Although many kinds of specific situations can invite social anxiety while shopping, some documented ones entail dealing with store staff or salespeople.

fear of shopping specific social anxiety
Fear of shopping as specific social anxiety

Here is a great example of shopping phobia from the book Social Phobia: From Shyness to Stage Fright:

A woman is so anxious about browsing in a store that when she has to ask the staff people about something she gets so concerned about how she will interact with them that she forgets why she had to ask the question in the first place.

Her feelings are such that she feels like she has done something wrong or she has shoplifted. When talking to the staff, she imagines that the staff person behind the counter demands that she just figures out what she wants and stops wasting her time….

Another great example, which I can whole-heartedly relate to, is that of a woman fearing of offending a staff person who is doing their job. If the sales people become pushy, it is hard for her to say no.

Sometimes the salespeople may force her to make a decision between items she particularly did not care for in the first place.

In cases like this, it is easy to find oneself in a situation where you end up putting items on hold even when there is no intention to buy them. Worst yet, you may find yourself being forced into buying something you do not really want.

People get concerned that they will have to speak to the store staff and worry about offending them.

They are worried that they may get judged by the salespeople or be ridiculed by them by not purchasing what they are selling.

People can lack confidence to tell salespeople or staff that they are just browsing and don’t really need any help.

If the salespeople get aggressive, it is hard for someone who is socially anxious to say no or refuse purchase. People, in that case, may end up buying products they do not really care for using.

People often say that they are afraid of hurting the store person’s feelings or make them mad in any way.

The bottom line is people with this specific social anxiety are unable to assert themselves because of fear of being thought ill of or being perceived as unreasonable or uncooperative.

It is no doubt that sales people can also take advantage of people who are not able to assert themselves and pressure people into making large purchases.

It is sometime not a bad idea for people who find it hard to assert themselves to take a friend along with them. The friend can help them in making large purchases without the fear of humiliation by the salespeople.

Also, for people who are in treatment for social anxiety and learning to be more assertive, they can start with small steps by browsing in nonthreatening stores for minor goods.

Types of social phobias that you may be dealing with

There are various types of social phobias. Learning more about them and identifying what connects with you can help you in your recovery process.

There is specific social phobia and generalized social phobia.

Generalized social phobia is what I suffered from. It is what contributes to social anxiety on a regular basis and can cause distress to individuals in varied social situations.

However, there is also specific social phobia, which means that there are particular social situations in which an individual experiences social anxiety as opposed to all times.

The lines between the definitions can vary as someone who has generalized social anxiety will likely deal with many different specific situations that trigger social anxiety in them.

It may not be necessary, however, that a person who experiences specific kind of social phobia in one condition, such as public speaking, will experience phobia in other social situations or will experience generalized social anxiety.

Thoughts that go with social phobia

With socially anxious people, new situations or coming contact with new people can bring a fluttering of many kinds of thoughts that may go along the lines of:

  • How are these new people thinking of me?
  • Am I doing anything ridiculous, awkward, or embarrassing that will lead someone to criticize me? I may be doing something wrong and I don’t know what it is.
  • Did I shake my hands properly? Are my hands sweating?
  • Was my hand shake firm enough or did was I just appearing too awkward and had a flimsy kind of a handshake?
  • Did I make proper eye contact? Was my eye contact too long and I just appeared weird?
  • What in the world am I going to say next after the introductions?
  • Who should begin the conversation? I wonder what kind of a conversation can I have with this person?

Although the thought processes are similar in many cases, the situations can be different and particular to the issues of each socially anxious individual.

Therefore, it helps to become acquainted with various types of social phobia.

Having knowledge about various conditions in which one may experience social phobia will help you become more aware of whether you have a similar experience.

There are often situations that make us uncomfortable but we may not associate that with social anxiety.

For example, for someone who does not like shopping or fears eating in public, it may seem that it is just a normal part of who they are. This may be true but it also could be part of larger underlying issues, such as social anxiety.

Connecting the dots with particular experiences can be useful part of the healing and recovery process.

Types of Social Phobias

So here are some specific types of social phobia that has been documented and written by experts on social phobia and social anxiety.

Fear of Shopping

Fear of Writing in Public

Telephone Phobia

The “Bashful Bladder” Syndrome

Fear of Eating in Public

Fear of Shyness and Compensating for Social Phobia

Public Speaking Anxiety

Behavioural causes of social anxiety disorder

What I have learned is that there are also behavioural causes of social anxiety disorder amongst the many other anxiety causes.…

Avoiding social situations can further increase social anxiety in the long run.

This means that by trying to hide or stay away from social situations to avoid interaction can make the problem of social anxiety disorder even worse.

I definitely struggled with this issue. The more I stayed away from people, the more I wanted to stay away from others.

As mentioned before, people with social anxiety disorder are often in a state of dominant / submission mentality, when they are in social situations.

As a result, it is easy to feel frightened by others, not to mention the strong need to make sure that we are not making the “dominant” people around us upset…

This heightened state of worry and fear makes us even more hyper vigilant, meaning we want to make sure that we are safe and those dominant others around are not angry or threatening.

Hence, we make every effort to be nice or super pleasing or we try to avoid people altogether.

In a highly anxious state we feel that our appearance, behaviour, or presentation may be criticized by others, so our confidence dies out very quickly.

We doubt our abilities as we feel that we do not match up to other people.

behavioural causes of social anxiety disorder
behavioural causes of social anxiety disorder

As a result, the following behaviours ensue:

  • We avoid having eye contact with people.
  • Our tone and voice often drones out and flattens.
  • We do not project our voice properly seem to have lost control of our voice.
  • We tend to look at the floor constantly, our head droops, and our body curves. We are not able to stand straight and confident.
  • We constantly need to apologize or make self-criticizing remarks about ourselves.

Spending so much time in this state of behaviour leads these patterns to become a more permanent part of our personality and critical causes of social anxiety disorder.

They become the norm for us. Social anxiety becomes ingrained in our body system and body memory so that our body almost forgets what it feels like to live like a free and confident person.

One should realize that these behaviour patterns are not conscious part of us.

As they become a normal result of negative brain and body activities, these thoughts become ingrained and become pre-programmed within us.

Hence these behaviors manifest in us in a state of unconscious, “automatic pilot” becoming one of the many leading causes of social anxiety disorder.

To break this “automatic programming” of our behaviours and tackling these important causes of social anxiety disorder, we need to engage in mindful practicing and reflect on our thoughts, behaviours, and attitudes.

Automatic, unconscious behaviour further impacts us in that it has associating physical symptoms such as increasing heart rate, accelerated breathing, muscle tension, short breathing, disorientation of space, amongst other manifestation of social anxiety….

Socially phobic people find these symptoms very difficult to deal with.

This is because such symptoms perpetuate the negative belief that somehow we are less and weaker than others, so we have to “prove” ourselves to other people.

When one studies social behaviour, it is important to note that studies have shown that fearful, submissive behaviour might actually prompt “dominant” or strong individuals to attack “weak” people.
Studies of school children have shown that aggressive children are likely to repeatedly attack another child if the latter continues to show submissiveness or defeat.

No doubt self-defense classes actually teach people to walk confidently, head up and firm gait, to show alertness and ward of physical aggression against them.

It is a primal way of protecting ourselves from being vulnerable.

When we engage in behaviour that avoids other people or we make ourselves appear weak in front of others, we invite negative response.

For example at a party, if you speak to another person in a soft tone, avoid eye contact, and fail to express your views or thoughts, the other person may think that you are not interested in talking to them or that you a difficult to person to get to know. I know I had this issue in high school and failed to make any meaningful friendships because of that.

To better handle our social anxiety, we can start to deal with behavioural causes of social anxiety by becoming conscious and aware of our behaviour.

Beliefs as causes of social anxiety disorder

I have learned that belief systems can also be causes of social anxiety disorder.

Anxiety causes due to beliefs entail thoughts, interpretations, and predictions about potential threatening social situations.

In the last few years, research in how thinking and thoughts affect social anxiety has proved the following (it is interesting to me that I relate to all of these situations):

People with social anxiety are highly sensitive to social behaviors and perceive that negative social events are more likely to occur in their day to day life. They also consider the consequences to be more troubling (than they actually are).

People with social anxiety have a strong element of inner criticism. This inner criticism is also projected out to the world so that they judge others to be more dominating and having power over them.

People with social anxiety believe that others will judge them and interpret their physical symptoms as an indication that that they are mentally ill or just stupid or crazy.

People with social anxiety interpret ambiguous social situations as an indication that others are rejecting them. For example, if someone didn’t return my phone call or email, I would think that they don’t like me.

People with social anxiety have a good memory of people’s faces and particular events, especially if the situations or expression on the face appears to be negative. This memory is registered in the body and is ready to be activated when they face anxiety-causing person or situation.

Our thought processes work in a state of feedback loop, meaning that the more anxiety-provoking thoughts we have, the more negativity and tension builds in the body; As our bodies get tense and anxious, the more negative thoughts occupy our minds.

Our well-being and health is intimately related to how our mind (consisting of our thoughts, feelings, memories, and much more) is a result of body and brain interconnections and communication.

This means that how you think and feel, what kind of self-talk you engage with yourself, and the view you have of the world around you has an enormous impact on your mental health.

These mind activities can be one of the major causes of social anxiety disorder.

beliefs as causes of social anxiety disorder
Belief systems as causes of social anxiety disorder

Beliefs systems as causes of social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety and panic are a result of fearful thoughts or attitudes about our social place in the world rather any particular physical threats or danger we face.

In a well-known book, Don’t Panic, R. Reid Wilson states that people, places, and events become frightening only after they gain a “meaning” to us. Objects and situations are only that until our brain interprets them as being something to fear. He suggests that to counter that, we have to re-examine our “point of interpretation”.

As I have mentioned that before, our mind and bodies are not some separate entities within us.

The brain receives information from the sensory organs, the body, and the surrounding environment; it processes this information, stores it as a memory, and directs the body based on this processed information.

The fear centers of the body include specialized parts of the brain that process the sensory information, add meaning to it, and send the message back to the body directing it to fight or flee a particular situation.

This exchange of information between the body and brain helps to create a sense of the “self”, which is a result of moment-by-moment activity between the brain and the body in relation to world outside of the body.

This information exchange between body-mind means that our thoughts greatly influence our perception of the world and exert their power over our bodies!

Our thoughts, attitudes, and emotion (such as social anxiety, fear, and depression) color our experience in a moment-by-moment fashion.

They have direct connection with the body because thoughts and attitudes have direct feedback into our system as they process all the incoming and outgoing messages.

This eventually means that fearful and anxious thoughts can keep the body’s fear system in a constant overdrive.

Recall that after the amygdala (in the brain) gets activated when confronted by danger, the higher centers of the brain process information from the surrounding environment and direct the body whether there is in fact danger or not.

If there is no perceived danger, the higher centers send the information to brain so that the amygdala “calms” down…

When we are in constantly anxious mode, these higher centers decide that there is actual danger (even if there is no physical threat) and stimulate amydala’s response.

Hence, our fear response system stays turned on for no apparent reason.

The positive side is that by becoming aware of our thoughts and attitudes (through meditation and other holistic treatment of social anxiety), the higher centers CAN learn to calm down and stop our fear systems from being in a mode of overdrive.

Now that we know the good news, let’s take another look at how thoughts and beliefs impact our overall health and attitude.

Negative, hostile thoughts stimulate anger within us and can have adverse effects on our bodies. These effects include blood pressure, coronary disease, migraines amongst many others.

Thoughts and feelings can also affect our health through worry. Worry entails future-oriented thoughts such that it reflects person’s desire to deal with and eliminate discomfort caused by anxiety.

Worry is a result of being uncertain about what will happen next or how one should act; it can lead to frustration and sense of helplessness. Hence, it becomes one of the important causes of social anxiety disorder.

Deep seated beliefs and attitudes can also result in thought patterns that disorient our sense of personal power and control. They can erode our confidence and ability to handle stress and undermine our sense of hope and optimism.

This is why it is critical, when having experienced social anxiety for a long time, that we explore what kind of beliefs and attitudes are facilitating this kind of anxiety.

In short, thoughts and belief can be important anxiety causes amongst many other causes of social anxiety disorder. When I became aware of these thoughts and beliefs, it became easier to identify what was causing my social anxiety.