Social media use is becoming more common among all age groups. However, while apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter allow people to remain connected across the globe and access billions of resources at the tips of their fingers, frequent social media use has also been linked to conditions like social anxiety and depression. So this begs the question – what is the link between social media and social anxiety? Are these platforms helpful for people with social anxiety disorder?
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)?
While it’s normal to be nervous in some social situations, such as on a first date or when presenting something to a large group of people, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a significantly more serious issue. Also known as social phobia, social anxiety refers to significant anxiety, self-consciousness, and embarrassment that occurs in everyday situations due to fear of scrutiny or negative judgment from others.
People with social anxiety disorder may avoid certain situations and interactions that may cause anxiety or intense fear, which often leads to isolation and depression. The severe stress that stems from this condition can also affect one’s relationships, daily routines, work, school, and other common activities.
Shyness and discomfort in certain situations aren’t necessarily signs of social anxiety. Comfort levels in these settings also depend on the person’s personality and life experiences. Some people are naturally more reserved than others.
In contrast to being introverted or feeling nervous, social anxiety disorder produces fear, anxiety, and avoidance severe enough to interfere with the person’s relationships, daily routines, performance at school or work, and other activities. Other common symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
- Fear of situations where you may be negatively judged.
- Frequently worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself around others.
- Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers.
- Fear that others will notice your anxiety or discomfort.
- Fear of physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, such as blushing, sweating, trembling, having a shaky voice, or stomach problems.
- Avoidance of doing things or speaking to people due to fear of embarrassment.
- Avoidance of situations where you might be the center of attention.
- Anxiety when anticipating a feared activity, event, or situation.
- Intense fear or anxiety during social situations.
- Self-analysis of your performance and identification of flaws in your interactions after a social situation.
- Expecting the worst possible outcome from a negative experience during a social situation.
Physical symptoms like blushing, rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, shaky voice, and trouble catching your breath are also some physical symptoms of social anxiety. If you’ve ever experienced these signs, mental health specialists at our rehab in Boca Raton, Florida, can help you determine if you have social anxiety disorder and the best course of treatment to help you manage your symptoms.
Does Social Media Cause Social Anxiety?
Although there isn’t a direct correlation between social media and social anxiety disorder, social media use can contribute to social anxiety and worsen the person’s symptoms. Oftentimes, people with social anxiety will use social media as a way of avoiding face-to-face interaction that may otherwise cause symptoms of anxiety and discomfort, such as the ones we mentioned above.
The main link between social anxiety disorder and social media is the lack of in-person interactions. While interacting with others behind a screen offers comfort to someone with social anxiety, it may also hinder their ability to interact with others in person. In other words, social media and internet use, combined with a fear of social networking and motivation to avoid face-to-face interaction, is associated with higher social anxiety.1
This claim is supported by a 2015 study that aimed to investigate how online and offline social behavior are linked with each other to impact the well-being of socially anxious adolescents and young adults. The study, which involved 656 students, showed that online social behavior was linked with lower well-being and higher social anxiety in offline social settings.1
The study also showed that the students who demonstrated offline social behaviors as well as online social behavior experience a greater sense of well-being. Altogether, this means that online social media use is motivated by the avoidance of real-time social engagement and does not modify the person’s need for vigilance of perceived threats to their self-image that they normally face in social situations.
Social media temporarily soothes feelings of embarrassment and self-consciousness that people with social anxiety disorder may experience in face-to-face interactions, but it doesn’t cure them. The internet and social media users simply allow the individual to modify and manipulate social interactions so they can present the “ideal” or “best” version of themselves.
Eventually, this discrepancy between who the person actually is and their “ideal self” can lead to a deterioration in their overall well-being, self-confidence, and self-worth. Not only is it possible to develop social anxiety from social media use, but the use of social media in people with SAD as an alternative to face-to-face communication leads to poorer well-being and lower self-confidence if not combined with in-person interaction. Fortunately, the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other evidence-based practices have proven effective in helping people with social anxiety disorder learn how to manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being.
Help for Social Anxiety Disorder
Whether you’re struggling with social anxiety due to social media or any other form of mental illness, Banyan Treatment Centers Boca Raton rehab can help. We offer inpatient mental health treatment for all anxiety disorders as well as depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, and more.
With the use of special programs and therapies like CBT and equine-assisted therapy, we teach clients how to identify the things that trigger their symptoms and the healthiest ways of coping with them. No matter what you’re going through, we’re here to help.
For more information about our Florida mental health rehab programs, contact Banyan Boca today at 888-280-4763.
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