Approximately 6% of men are diagnosed with social anxiety and 9% of women.  Why is this figure higher for women? a member of the audience asked at a talk I was at last night.

Firstly, these figures are not high at all.  Why is that?  The reason is because these are the figures for Social Anxiety DISORDER.  To have a disorder, one must be diagnosed by a Doctor using a diagnostic manual and a questionnaire. 

What is Social Anxiety Disorder? 

It is an anxiety disorder that is related to being around other people.  It can manifest with physical symptoms, sweating, blushing, stuttering.  It can leave a person lost for words, with a mind that has gone blank, and inability to express themselves.  The result of this leading to individuals feeling stupid or boring or weird.  This is the internal response, but the beholder believes strongly that these are the views of others, and are left struggling to manage strong feelings of remorse or shame.  A common way to manage this is to simply avoid situations, and people, which is a spiral of tragedy as they become disconnected, more alone and increasingly fearful about being social.

(I read this long read article in the Guardian this week, and I’m led to wondering about what type of anxiety this chap might have been experiencing… )

It is treatable – if one can manage to leave the house and deal with having to see people!  I believe that a great many people have some of the symptoms of Social Anxiety without having the actual diagnosable disorder.  I feel slightly worried in new situations if I don’t know anyone, and I definitely find myself worrying what others might think of that thing that I said, “oh god, why did I say that…”

But the interesting question for me here was about the women.  Asked by a woman too. 

A couple of things came to my mind – women historically have been deprived of rights, paid less, classed as inferior and at times hysterical.  Women are better at expressing their emotions.  Okay, I’m generalising, and stating the obvious – aren’t I?  Doesn’t everyone know this stuff?  I was surprised to hear this question from my fellow audience member anyway.

I know stuff about Social Anxiety, through theory, personal experience and listening to friends, colleagues and clients.  I also know stuff about women, as I am one and I’m interested in current affairs and politics.

Of course I did not respond to the question during the talk, it wasn’t my talk after all.  And I was feeling slightly socially anxious about expressing my views in a room full of people I didn’t know.   *GRINS*

Fancy a chat about social anxiety?  Feel free to share this post if you think it might be useful or interesting, tweet it, post a comment – or you could even give me ring!