The New Year brings joy to most, but for some people this period brings emotionally challenging times. Feelings of loneliness and social anxiety may also intensify during the winter as a result of spending more time inside and away from social interactions.
Loneliness and Social Anxiety
Social anxiety results from the prospect of personal evaluation in real or imagined social situations, while loneliness refers to feelings of emotional isolation. Mary Shull is a professional counselor with extensive experience helping people effectively manage feelings of loneliness and social anxiety through therapy.
Loneliness is Influenced by Perception
One way to think of loneliness, which affects people from all walks of life, is that it involves perception; you can be alone and still feel absolutely content. However, when feeling lonely, there is a difference between the level of emotional intimacy you have with people in your social circle and the amount of closeness you want at that time. Loneliness ensues if there is a large discrepancy between your perceived reality and what you believe you need at that time.
For some, loneliness only happens occasionally, especially if plenty of quality time is spent with loved ones and friends. However, there are some people that tend to feel lonely their entire life; they have trouble forming lasting relationships or don't get close enough to people to have their emotional needs satisfied. For these people, the feelings of loneliness may be reduced by working towards adjusting their perception.
The Background on Social Anxiety.
Anyone can feel anxious about attending a party or running into relatives or acquaintances with whom they don't feel at ease. They might also want to avoid running into an ex or a former friend. Social anxiety is also very common when attending a large event. People with social anxiety disorder may be extremely conscious about how others perceive them.
These fears could stem from many things, including how other people respond to their appearance, mannerisms, and patterns of communication. They don't want to let people down, and they frequently hold themselves back from forming close attachments to avoid the possibility of rejection.
However, much of social anxiety is caused when a person misinterprets the verbal and nonverbal communication of others around them. Social anxiety disorder is treated in part by teaching people to socialize better and to minimize or ignore their misinterpretations of others in social contexts.
Social Networking and Social Anxiety
When considering social networks, there is the potential for communications to cause anxiety. These networks have the potential to reduce loneliness and social anxiety because these sites make it easy to reconnect with people who live far away or who have very busy travel or work schedules.
One study found that the connection between people with depression and anxiety and the use of social network sites is clear:
"Positive interactions, social support, and social connectedness on SNSs were consistently related to lower levels of depression and anxiety, whereas negative interaction and social comparisons on SNSs were related to higher levels of depression and anxiety. SNS use related to less loneliness and greater self-esteem and life satisfaction."
You should only use social media to the point you feel is appropriate. Having a great dependence on social media interaction could make you feel depressed or anxious when social contacts get too busy to respond to you. Everyone needs friends they can meet up with in real life and spend quality time together.
Start the New Year on the Right Foot
For more information about living with social anxiety and managing it through regular therapy, please contact Mary Shull.