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Does Social Media Cause Social Anxiety?

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Social media is a significant part of many people’s lives. They use it to stay connected with friends and family, share pictures and videos, and make new virtual friends. However, some people can feel anxious when they use social media. Others may already suffer from an anxiety disorder that can affect how they feel, making them wonder if there is a link between social media and social anxiety. 

What Is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that affects how people react to various social settings and environments. Furthermore, how one reacts to others in social settings will vary based on the extent of their social anxiety disorder depending on the symptoms they experience.

Some of the more common symptoms associated with this disorder include:

  • Feeling Anxious in Social Settings
  • Experiencing Fear When Around People
  • Believing Others are Judging You
  • Making Excuses to Avoid Social Settings
  • Feeling Distressed
  • Elevated Heart Rate/Blood Pressure
  • Fainting
  • Panic Attacks
  • Problems Breathing
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Extreme Fatigue After Being in Social Settings
  • Unable to Engage with Others 

Everyone can experience some of these symptoms when encountering new social settings. However, the symptoms must be persistent for at least 6 months or longer to be considered social anxiety. 

How Social Media and Social Anxiety are Linked

There is an identifiable connection between social media and disorders such as anxiety. For example, if you feel anxious when you open social media to see how many likes, followers, and comments you received, you are experiencing a common symptom of social anxiety. If you already suffer from an anxiety disorder, using social media can cause you to experience intense fear and anxiety when you feel like others are judging you on social media. For instance, you post a selfie and do not get many likes, or the comments are unfavorable. This can negatively impact your anxiety disorder. 

You may feel like you are not living up to others’ expectations, so you can become fearful about even using social media. You could also experience a fear of missing out by comparing yourself to others on social media. As a result, you may feel like your life is less adequate than your friend’s and trigger other social anxiety symptoms. Conversely, social media can actually be beneficial for those with social anxiety. Social media can increase self-esteem in those who are too afraid to speak up in social settings and interact. As a result, they are more willing to join in conversations, leave comments, and be more socially active virtually. 

How using social media affects someone will vary from one person to another. Some people can experience both positive and negative effects of using social media. Other people might have more negative experiences, while others have more positive experiences. 

Does Using Social Media Lead to Social Anxiety?

Using social media can be a trigger for social anxiety. However, it can also be a trigger for developing addictive tendencies too. When we check to see how many new followers, comments, and likes we have on our posts, and they are positive, they reinforce our brain’s reward system as an enjoyable behavior. We may feel elated and excited as the brain naturally releases endorphins that make us feel good. In addition, being rewarded can trigger us to keep checking social media more often since it is reinforced as a positive behavior. 

As you can see, feeling the need to check social media borders on addictive behaviors. Should we stop checking social media as often, we can experience withdrawal symptoms. Since we are no longer being rewarded, it can cause us to start to feel anxious. 

For some people, they can trigger social anxiety. To avoid feeling this way, they go back to their former habits of checking social media frequently, much like having a substance use disorder. On the other hand, social media can be equally cruel when people do not like, share, or comment on your posts or post negative comments. Being judged negatively by others can trigger social anxiety. It can also carry over to actual social settings where you feel like you are being compared and evaluated by everyone in the room.  

So, using social media could lead to social anxiety. It can equally become very addictive and lead to withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop using social media. Therefore, if you are constantly checking social media from the time you get up until you go to bed and are highly concerned about what others are posting and saying about you, you might need professional help. 

Signs of Social Media Induced Social Anxiety and How to Treat It

Social media can be a powerful tool for connecting with others and staying informed, but it can also contribute to feelings of social anxiety. Some signs that social media use may be contributing to social anxiety include spending excessive amounts of time on social media, feeling anxious or stressed when unable to access social media, and comparing oneself negatively to others on social media.

To treat social media-induced social anxiety, it is important to first address the underlying causes of the anxiety. This may involve setting limits on social media use, seeking support from friends and family, and learning coping strategies for managing stress and anxiety. Therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can also be an effective tool for addressing social anxiety related to social media use.

CBT can help individuals to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to anxiety, as well as learn coping strategies and techniques to manage anxiety. In therapy, you will work with a therapist to identify the triggers and negative beliefs that drive your social media-induced social anxiety and develop a plan to address them.

It is also important to focus on developing healthy habits and building a strong sense of self-worth that is not tied to social media. This can include engaging in activities that bring you joy, spending time with friends and family, and practicing self-care. By taking these steps, you can begin to break the cycle of social media-induced social anxiety and start to feel more confident and secure in your interactions with others.

Anxiety and Addiction Treatment in Redondo Beach, CA

If you have noticed when you are using social media, you are exhibiting symptoms of social anxiety, or if you feel you are addicted to social media, help is available at Clear Behavioral Health in Los Angeles, CA. We offer a wide range of mental health treatments for teens and adults suffering from social anxiety and social media addiction. To learn more about our programs and treatment options, give us a call or visit our admissions page today.

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