A new study suggests putting a ban on the thoughts that heighten social anxiety.
Posted Oct 20, 2018
You’ve been invited to a dinner with people you don’t know very well. The boss has put you on a guest list intended to wine and dine new customers, or a friend has asked you to attend her wedding rehearsal with her extended family whom you’ve never met before. The worries start to build up as the date approaches. Will you be dressed appropriately for the occasion? Who will you be sitting next to at the table or, worse, will the event be a stand-up affair where you have to balance food and drink in your hands? The idea that you’ll be with people you don’t know that well only causes your anxiety to heighten. If you were with close friends, it wouldn’t matter if you were dressed too formally or informally, and you certainly wouldn’t worry about a spill or two while you’re eating your meal. But with these strangers who you want to impress, the chances are far worse that a social faux pas will have negative consequences.
People with high levels of social anxiety are more likely to experience these feelings on a regular basis, even in situations that don’t have such high stakes and uncertainty. University of Sydney’s Matthew Modini and Maree Abbott (2018) believe that social anxiety is fed by rumination, or constant thinking, about an upcoming event that leads to these worries. Running over and over again in your mind the many possible things that can go wrong not only causes you to be more anxious, but can also impact your behavior once you’re in the actual situation. You get the jitters when you pick up your cup of coffee and, of course, some of it will spill (into the saucer, preferably, and not your clothes). Now you feel that you have drawn negative attention to yourself. The cycle of worry becomes perpetuated, leading you to have even higher levels of worry for the next event to come along.