If a person struggles with their discomfort getting to know people, we know this is usually called social anxiety. While there are extreme forms of this problem – not being able to leave the house, for example – I have had people I work with in the past that suffered from this - the more mild symptoms of social anxiety could be caused by feeling alone. You may feel as if you’re unlikeable or unworthy of good relationships, causing fear and anxiety about the process of forming them.
Research suggests that people who suffer from social anxiety may actually have superior social skills than those who do not. In other words, people who have social anxiety is not necessarily that they don’t know how to talk to people. Instead, research suggest they struggle with relationships because they are scared of messing up – they worry about saying the wrong thing in social situations. Therefore, social anxiety can lead to people feeling lonely creating a cycle of social anxiety and loneliness.
Sound familiar…. You really do have very good communication and social skills…. you just have to believe that you are “good enough” and not worry about what people think, which is called “future tripping” and “mind reading” which is assuming that we know how people will react to us even before we interact with them then and once we do, that they will think negatively about us. All of our negative thoughts about ourselves usually have no evidence to back up our negative thoughts. That is why I like to call them Thinking Traps – because we fall into the trap of thinking negatively about ourselves.
This is where a therapist that practices Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help you to challenge any and all negative thoughts. CBT will help you look for the evidence that does support the thought(s) and then look for the evidence that does NOT support the negative thought(s).
Thomas Kessler, LMFT, RAS
Marriage & Family Therapist and Registered Addiction Specialist