Anxiety affects 18% of the population in the United States. This equates to around 40 million people. Social anxiety affects about 15 million of these people.
Why do so many people suffer from social anxiety? Our society is full of people who are different. It is also full of prejudices and biases that can make those with differences feel ackward in social situations. Social anxiety arises from the fear of being embarrassed or judged by others. Social anxiety may even lead to extreme cases of schizophrenia or paranoia.
As hard as it is for people to live their everyday life with social anxiety, there is an upside to this suffering. Studies have shown that people who have social anxiety are more empathetic and have higher IQs than people without this mental disorder.
A Lakehead University study shows that people with anxiety disorders score higher on verbal intelligence tests than do people without any mental illness. A study out of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City also found that people with anxiety disorders have higher IQs.
Researchers at the University of Haifa’s Department of Psychology in Haifa, Israel decided to study the empathy of people with social anxiety. Their study concluded that people with social anxiety have a very high psycho-social awareness and are very sensitive to the moods of other people. Some may even be so hyper-sensitive to these feelings that they have trouble when they engage in certain types of social situations, leaving early, or avoiding them all together.
The higher intelligence in those with social anxiety manifests itself in many ways. People with social anxiety are much more aware of their surroundings than most people. Because of their fear of rejection or ridicule they are constantly reflecting and analyzing what they see around them. Their mind makes them see dangers that are not there, while they process stimuli and information is such a way that it is hard for them to miss much. Therefore, they see more than people without any anxiety problems. Unfortunately for some, this means that besides living with constant social anxiety, they may be living with a mind that never rests. A constantly working mind is a sign of an intelligent mind.
Everyone has heard the old saying “ignorance is bliss”, but “awareness is torture” is never mentioned. Only those who are super sensitive and highly aware of the world around them can truly understand that awareness can certainly be a daily torture. These intense feelings for everything and everyone can become overwhelming to the human mind. Social anxiety is created from these intense feelings as a way to protect the mind from so much coming at it all at once.
People suffering with social anxiety should think about changing their whole perspective on their disorder. Instead of a curse, social anxiety may indeed be a great gift. Awareness and intuitiveness may lead you to see things before they are about to happen. You may even have a greater ability to predict these situations and behaviors than those without any anxiety disorders. This is definitely a good advantage to have. So, social anxiety sufferers everywhere should rejoice in the gifts and special talents they have, rather than thinking they just have some sort of mental disorder.