What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder - Why Me?


Social Anxiety Disorder is a fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people. People who have social anxiety often fear that they are being watched, judged, and evaluated by other people. It is often mistaken for shyness or low self-esteem. There are many different causes of social anxiety. However, the causes of social anxiety in some people simply cannot be explained.

Social anxiety is usually caused by a combination of factors. So what causes social anxiety disorder?

1) Biological

You may be born with certain traits that may make you more susceptible to developing social anxiety. For example, your body may easily be physiologically triggered by little things and create feelings of fears and anxiety. Anxiety can also run in the family so genetics may play a part in making you more easily anxious.

Your personality can also be a biological factor that makes you more prone to social anxiety e.g. you may be an introvert and are naturally less sociable, or are generally more timid.

2) Environment

This refers to your surroundings which can be strongly influenced by your upbringing. The type of upbringing that you are subjected to can set a foundation for how you feel about yourself, how you maintain or handle relationships and how you response to situations later in your life. Factors in your upbringing that affect how you develop as an individual include:

  • The relationships you had with your family.
  • The presence of an authoritative or a positive role model to guide you.
  • The lessons you were taught when you were young (e.g. how to cope when a difficult situations arise, independence, leadership, what is acceptable behaviour).
  • Your experiences with how you were praised, criticized or assessed in life.
  • Opportunities to interact with others (e.g. social gatherings, being part of a team).

The lack of the right environment to learn important coping mechanisms, social skills and basic social etiquette can create social anxiety as the individual may be unsure of how to handle certain social situations or environment and generally have a low self esteem. The individual may be constantly fearful that others might judge them and are scared that they may do something that could make them look silly or reveal their weakness to others.


3) Unpleasant Life Experiences

Unpleasant life experiences can have a strong impact on your confidence and how you handle difficulties in life. Negative experiences that have a big impact may include history of being abuse, bullied, teased or isolated.

Being abused, bullied, teased or isolated can make an individual feel like they are being singled out as being different, unpopular, weird or unwanted and can increase the likelihood of developing social anxiety.

In addition, significant life events like the sudden lost of a loved one or being a victim of a crime (e.g. rape) can also have a huge effect on how one interacts with the world around them.

4) Current Life Stresses

Current life stresses definitely has an important part to play in increasing the likelihood of developing social anxiety. This is especially true for individuals who are very self conscious and are often fearful of what people will think of them.

Stressful events that may cause social anxiety can include big changes such as relocation, change of workplace or school (all of which takes the individual away from social environments that they are familiar with).


5) Experiencing Difficulties Dealing With Different Stages In Life

You may find it hard to cope as you deal with the different stages in your life; from your childhood, to adolescent, to becoming a young adult, middle age, old age and finally retirement. Different life stages offer their fair share of confusion and challenges and each stage can also affect how you interact with your environment and the people around you.

For example, being an adolescence can be tough as you go through a stage where you try to figure out who you are while being exposed to different social settings and you are required to develop more independence (i.e. less reliance on your family). Bad experiences during this confusing time may undermine your social confidence which may cause social anxiety.

During adulthood, you may be so focused on building your career or trying to find your purpose in life that you neglect the people around you, subject yourself to intense stress - all of which can affect your mental and physical health and slowly isolate you from others, which may potentially lead to some degree of social anxiety.

When you age and enter into your retirement years, you may feel lost and a lack of purpose in life because you may perceive yourself to be useless and have nothing to contribute. Your grown up children may be busy with their lives and you feel neglected. Your friends may also be busy with their families or have passed on. This can lead to isolation as you gradually feel that the world around you is getting smaller and you become more and more withdrawn.

Different life stages offer their fair share of confusion and challenges and each stage can also affect how you interact with your environment and the people around you.

What causes social anxiety can vary from person to person. Having a deeper understanding of the potential root causes of social anxiety is the first step to managing this problem. You do not have to live with being excessively shy or fearful of what people might think of you and succumb to the anxiety and stress that this condition brings. Once the underlying cause of social anxiety is found, most people are able to begin dealing with their social anxiety in effective, successful ways.

You can also take the well-known Social Anxiety Test, The Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale to have a more precise determination on whether you are suffering from social anxiety disorder.

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Comments 3 comments

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 7 weeks ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

I have a daughter who has social anxiety disorder. She really had a tough time during her school years. Now as an adult, she has to make an a concerted effort to get to know others. She has a tough time making and keeping friends.

Happylovejoy profile image

Happylovejoy 7 weeks ago from Singapore Author

Hi Denise..Thanks for sharing...getting over any kind of anxiety is always a work in progress..hope your daughter will learn to overcome it and get better!

teaches12345 6 weeks ago

Good message and advice on this trend in our society today. I hear of people having this disorder much more than in the past. If one can find the root of the cause, that would be great. I believe many people do not consider taking this step. I hope they grasp the truth of your statement.

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