WHAT IS SOCIAL ANXIETY?
Wikipedia defines it like this:
Social anxiety is a discomfort or a fear when a person is in a social interaction that involves a concern of being judged or evaluated by others. It is typically characterised by an intense fear of what others are thinking about them (specifically fear of embarrassment, criticism, or rejection), which results in the individual feeling insecure and not good enough for other people, and/or the assumption that peers will automatically reject them. Developmental social anxiety occurs early in childhood as a normal part of the development of social functioning and is a stage that most children grow out of, but it may persist or resurface and grow into chronic social anxiety. People vary in how often they experience social anxiety, and in which kinds of situations they experience it.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT PERKY KID?
I think the root of a lot of social anxiety are those stages in our lives when we are developing our sense of self. As we enter different institutions, like school, university and the workplace, we are exposed to structures, rules and guidelines for how we should act. School effectively becomes a big social experimental playground, where human interactions are negotiated and re-negotiated, interacted and re-interacted, experimented and re-experimented. Social hierarchies are formed and reinforced, and only the very few sit at the top of these hierarchies.
Most kids survive and get over it easily. Bad things happen all the time when you’re a kid. But, some kids are more emotionally sensitive than others and take things seriously to heart. It becomes problematic. They can’t let go of what had happened to them in the past, and it plays in their head, altering perceptions of reality.
i have been one of those kids. Early social interaction never left my mind, and the complexity of social rules confuses me. To what extent should i conform or be an individual? When should i take things personally and when should i not?
In my case, and in the case of many others, it prompts mechanisms to shut ourself away from society and becoming more and more anti-social. That isn’t optimal and leads to more problems, because humans are social beings. We can shut ourselves away from socialising with other people, but deep down we need companionship and social life, and we becomes lonely in our own space.
So, it can become an illness, and often those most vulnerable are those who experience other mental illnesses like Borderline Personality Disorder. Recovery Ranch points out this linkage:
Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) frequently suffer from other psychiatric disorders as well. When this occurs, they have a “co-occurring” or “co-morbid” disorder. The reason borderlines are particularly vulnerable to co-occurring disorders may be partially due to their particular genetic makeup.
Intense social anxiety will often eventually lead to panic attacks, although panic attacks can be from many other causes also.
TAKING PRECAUTIONS FOR SOCIAL ANXIETY WHEN NAVIGATING BDSM
If you’ve just started exploring the BDSM community, it is smart to take precautions when doing meet-ups or going to BDSM related events:
• Set up a contingency or emergency plan to remove yourself from the social interaction if you need to. DO NOT go with the flow, don’t risk yourself in situations where you can’t walk away from the room.
• It is always okay to say NO, and it is fine to say you are NOT READY.
• Use toilet breaks to breathe, breathe and breathe.
• Focus on one thing at a time and let the social noise in the background fade into shadow.
• If you are at high risk of panic attack, ask a friend to give you a call every 15 minutes or so, and use that as an excuse for a social break if you need to.
For those who are already in a Dominant/submissive dynamic, when social anxiety happens there are things you can do to avoid miscommunication and escalation:
• Request a short break from the discussion, or whatever it is that is making you feel anxious.
• Try to learn to recognise the symptoms of an anxious mind, so that you can tell when you are slipping into that state.
• Be open and honest with your Dom. If they know that you deal with anxiety then they will help you with it.
That last point about communication really applies whether or not you are in a relationship. Letting your friends, Dom or sub know about your condition will help them to know how to better interact with you. No one is a mind reader, so you need to give those close to you access to your mind. Being aware of who to trust, and who to communicate with, is also important, as you don’t want others stigmatise you, but you do want those who matter to understand your condition. So knowing who to communicate with, is also important. Hopefully, you surround yourself with people who are open-minded and understanding, not those who are negative and self-absorbed.
HOW DOES THE BDSM POWER DYNAMIC HELP WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY?
When it’s been a hectic day, filled with people’s glares and voices, the head is cluttered and social anxiety is lurking, power dynamics can provide the safe zone that shields the mind. A slave may focus on his Master’s boots or the weight of his collar. A good Dom can know that he is the warm, steady anchor in his boy’s life.
Even in social settings where the Dom and sub are not physically together, after some practise it can be possible to mentally simulate the power of the connection, and re-enact that kind of mental state.
Power Dynamics make possible a shield, like a power cluster, that protects those within. It can provide a sense of security and protection, and that can be exactly the comfort that is needed to deal with anxiety.
At the very least, if any serious anxiety happens in a social setting, a quality hug will certainly wash away the stress.
FURTHER READING – Anxiety and BDSM
• FetLife Discussion – Being a Good sub with Anxiety Disorder – Help?
• Fetlife Discussion – Getting Past Anxiety
• BBC News Magazine – Four Types of Anxiety and How to Cure Them
• Ask MetaFilter – BDSM Filter – Munches, Play Parties, and Social Anxiety
• Lifehack – 14 Things to Remember If You Love an Anxious Person