My social anxiety is getting worse with age
Have you ever though for yourself or asked yourself the following questions:
- “My social anxiety is getting worse as I get older”
- “Will my social anxiety get better or worse with age?”
- “Will my social anxiety ever get better on its own?”
- “Is my social anxiety only going to get worse with age?”
Well, personally I admint that I certainly have, and in this article I’m going to take look at those questions.
For most people anxiety peaks in adolescence
Anxiety is a common feature of adolescence for many people, however, for some, this problem might get better and for some it might get worse. Many people find that adolescence is a very emotionally charged period in their life because it involves mood swings, significant shifts in emotions, and many other emotional difficulties.
Some find that their anxiety and other emotions peak in adolescence and that they become lesser with age. This is also what happens to individuals that experience anxiety disorders or problems and find that their problems become milder with age…
…but this is not always the case. In a lot of situations, especially when there are social anxiety problems or other anxiety disorders, the individual might find that their anxiety tends to get worse with age.
Why does this happen?
The main reason associated with this is that individuals do not get treatment for anxiety. A lack of treatment can meant that the problem continuously gets worse as the person is not getting the correct support and they might lack the necessary help.
For many, things like anti-anxiety medication and therapy are an essential element to restore and maintain an adequate functioning. For people who choose not to get treatment or don’t have access to it, the issue might become worse with time because it is not being addressed adequately.
Due to the lack of treatment, the problem might get worse for various reasons, explored below.
How anxiety and social anxiety may get worse as you age
Take a look at this video to learn ONE of the biggest reasons why many people only get worse
Anxiety can get worse with time for several reasons associated with the problem itself and the strategies used to manage it.
- First, anxiety can become worse due to a self-reinforcing loop.
The individual feels anxious in a situation, so their performance and response to the situation is negative. Their anxiety is reinforced and the next time they face the same situation, they react with the same negative emotions and concern or a more intense reaction.
For example, a person who has social anxiety might be anxious when they have to meet new people. If they react out of fear, they might not respond to the situation well and feel that they have embarassed themselves…
…this serves as a confirmation for their fears and contributes to the anxiety the next time they are in the same situation. In essence, when the person is having anxiety, it is a signal that there is something wrong, that there is danger. If this feedback is not challenged, then it creates a loop that reinforces anxiety and can make it worse with age.
- Second, the coping strategies might be destructive
The second aspect associated with why anxiety might get worse with time is the choice of coping strategies that the person uses. Some strategies might be helpful and healthy, for example, meditation, therapy, cognitive reframing, and others. However…
…often the most available and “easy” or seemingly effective strategies may in fact make the problem worse over time. One example of this coping strategy is avoidance. Avoidance is a natural reaction to anxiety: if a situation is scary, we want to avoid it. However, this strategy can be counterproductive.
Avoidance tends to spread and grow
For many people, avoidance tends to spread to other situations. For example, if at first the person only avoided speaking to others on the phone, later on they might also avoid texting or engaging in person. In addition to this, it can create a situation where the individual begins to feel a higher level of anxiety in relation to the situation they are avoiding.
There are other examples of coping strategies that might worsen anxiety. For example, many people use alcohol to relax in social settings but this can make their overall health and well-being worse and make them overreliant on alcohol…
…which can not only promote unhealthy drinking habits but also make the person feel more afraid and anxious in social situations where alcohol is not permitted or appropriate.
We have to find a balance between avoidance and exposure
-Too much exposure, on the other hand, is not recommended. Or to be more accurate, exposure to situations that the anxiety sufferer find to be extremely uncomfortable-
People might also use strategies that can be counterproductive. For instance, a common recommendation for anxiety is to “just do it”, whatever the thing that is found frightful is. In the case of social anxiety, it often involves just putting yourself out there and interacting with people.
Exposure is a valid technique and is used in most types of therapy, however, if the situation is too overwhelming or is not handled properly, it can have the opposite effect and make the person more anxious in social situations than before because it adds to their anxiety.
For example, if the person with social anxiety finally decides to go to a setting that is scary, like a party, and ends up with a panic attack or with a negative experience due to their level of distress, they are likely to see this as a confirmation of their fears.
- Third, The anxiety sufferer makes a habit of having anxiety
Anxiety might become worse because it becomes more of a habit, and people’s brains become more habituated to it. It becomes like a bad addiction that people cannot kick because it grows more and more rooted in the brain, even at a structural level.
The pathways associated with anxiety are strengthened each time the person follows the familiar pattern, giving it more power.
Will it get worse or better?
Overall, it can be said that if we just let anxiety be, it is likely to get worse with age. It is important to seek help and support for this issue to ensure that it does not become a more significant and limiting issue.
Therapy, medication, and healthy coping strategies and social support can all be effective tactics to deal with anxiety and ensure that it does not become a severe and chronic issue. If suffering from anxiety and social anxiety, keep putting yourself out there but choose your battles…
…don’t attack the hardest situations first. Also, keep collecting more and more anxiety tools to your anxiety toolbox. We can never have too many of those. For example take a look at my article
16 ways to deal with anxiety. Perhaps you will find at least some of the tools in that article helpful.
Lastly, never give up! It i important that you keep going no matter how you feel.
Or to to quote John Greenleaf Whittier:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.