For individuals with social anxiety, the deck often seems to be stacked in the wrong direction. A new study claims that socially anxious people must improve their performance to break the cycle of social rejection.
Researchers from Maastricht University sought to discover the reasons why individuals with social anxiety disorder have been found to be less likable, less friendly and less comfortable to be around than non-anxious people.
People with social anxiety disorder were observed during two social tasks: a speech and a ‘getting acquainted’ conversation. People watching and participating then reported how they felt towards the socially anxious person.
Lead researcher, Marisol Voncken, said: “The individuals with social anxiety disorder performed badly in these social situations and this poor social performance caused the observers to feel negatively towards them.
“When people feel negatively about someone, they tell themselves that they are nothing like that person, and this belief and their negative feelings leads to the social rejection that we witnessed.
“Fear of rejection is one of the core problems for people with social anxiety disorder, but we have seen that their anxious behavior is actually causing this to happen.
“Now we know this, we can find ways to help people with social anxiety disorder improve their outward social performance which could stop this vicious cycle,” Marisol concluded.
Recommendations to help people with social anxiety to better cope include helping socially anxious people to find ways of reducing self focused attention, and encouraging them to socialize with people with similar characteristics and interests.
The study appears in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology.