Feeling a pang of anxiety, or a wave of “Eugh, I’d rather just stay home” before you leave the house, is far more common than you might think.
Human beings are hardwired to feel anxious in social situations. A flutter in the stomach. Sweaty palms. Maybe some rumination about what on earth you’ll talk about.
Thousands of years ago, social ostracism meant certain death, so we’ve evolved to fear the possibility of rejection. How would we eat? Where would we find shelter? Inclusion in the tribe was critical to our survival.
Today, the “biological need to be liked” in Stefan Hoffmann’s words, hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, it would be abnormal to experience absolutely no discomfort in social situations.
Mia Freedman talks about living with anxiety. Post continues below.
These sensations become a problem, however, when they critically interfere with our day to day lives. Hoffman, the director of the Social Anxiety Program at Boston University, says people have cause for concern if they are “missing out on many opportunities in life”, like dating or making an important speech at work. For some, social anxiety can be so debilitating that they “might not marry, they might have very few friends, they might not go out for parties…”