Today, we're exploring why social anxiety is so common in neurodivergent people. There's a transcript below if you prefer to read or follow along.
Video Transcript: Neurodivergence and Social Anxiety
Let’s take a minute to dive into one of the most common impacts of social difference - social anxiety.
We know from the research that neurodivergent people are more prone to social anxiety.
Why is this? Well, there are a few reasons.
Neurodivergent people are more likely to have higher levels of anxiety overall. It’s estimated that up to half of all autistic and ADHD people experience high levels of anxiety, or are dealing with an anxiety disorder. Because we are more generally prone to be anxious, it makes sense that our level of social anxiety is also likely to be higher.
Because of our social differences, we are also more likely to have unpleasant, negative, or otherwise anxiety-provoking social interactions with those who don’t understand our differences. We can leave these interactions feeling rejected or humiliated. This hurts, and can leave us with painful memories and associations. When we experience a lot of these hurts, over time it can change how we think and feel about social situations. Some people refer to this as social trauma.
And finally, because we are socially different, we might have a harder time finding people that we connect to easily. It can be harder for us to find our community, and so we can experience a lack of belongingness. This can really impact our mental health. One 2005 study found that increased perceived stress combined with a lower sense of belonging had "significant direct effects on the severity of depression."
Social anxiety can have a big impact on the way we respond to social situations.
Because anxiety feels like danger, it activates our survival instinct, and can cause us to behave in a couple different ways:
Fight: We may be more likely to be defensive, or respond with anger when we feel nervous or rejected. We can even go on the offence, rejecting other people and pushing them away so they don’t have the chance to do that to us.
Flight: We can become withdrawn and start avoiding social situations. We may give up completely on trying to make friends, or even tell ourselves that we prefer being along or don’t need others. In reality, we may be very lonely, but social situations have been so painful for us, that it feels too hard to put ourselves out there.
Fawn: We can become expert people pleasers, constantly alert and monitoring the people around us to try to make them happy and avoid any possibility of being rejected. This can lead us to neglecting our own needs in order to take care of others.
Stick with me, because we’ll talk more about overcoming social anxiety in the Strategies and Solutions section later.
Now that we know more about what it means to be differently social, let’s look at what it doesn’t mean, in the next video - Stereotypes and Misconceptions.
How do you tend to respond when you feel socially anxious?