Social Interactions Combat Social Anxiety
Forcing or requiring someone to do something runs the risk of having back lash and being perceived negatively, especially by those being forced. Most people in most situations do not like to be told what to do or feel like they have no control over a situation. However, requiring first year students at a high school to participate in a competitive team activity will ultimately benefit them despite the objections that would likely arise.
One of the biggest oppositions to requiring the adolescents to participate in a team activity is that all not all teenagers do well in social situations. A large reasoning for the lack of functioning well during social interaction is that they are struggling with social anxiety or social phobias. Forcing them into these social situations could have detrimental effects on their mental health and well-being from all of the stress and anxiety caused. According to Kenneth Walters and Debra Hope social phobia embodies an excessive fear of social situations that stems from the anticipation of scrutiny leading to expectations of humiliation and embarrassment. People classified as social anxious are said to have activated defense systems. During social interaction they are submissive. The don’t engage in dominant behavior but instead have the goal of avoiding rejection to remain in the situation, or if needed they focus on escaping or avoiding the situations all together. In the study conducted by Walters and Hope they tested the social interactions of those with social phobia against non-anxious people in the same kind of interaction. The results showed that the aforementioned characteristics of the socially anxious are predominately through verbal interaction. When the adolescents join a team the focus is not solely on speaking to their peers, which minimizes the threat to the teenagers that may be socially anxious. This is definitely true with sports. During practices and games the focus is on the sport activities. While you may be the focus for a few seconds while a play is happening the crowd is overall watching the team as a whole. In practice the coaches are focusing on everyone and teammates are focused on their own success at what they are doing. There is no pressure to carry a conversation during these times. The aspects of playing the sport that are beneficial, such as reaching personal goals and achieving personal satisfaction with ones performance, are in turn not actually causing harm to the social well-being of the individual.
Of course there are times when that social interaction does need to occur, or the competitive team may be more verbally focused, such as a scholastic competition team. In the case of the latter, there may be more social pressures that could cause anxiety. However, as time goes on and the adolescent is more involved in the activity and the benefits of doing so are seen, any negativity that may arise at the beginning would be counteracted. As skill improves and the teenager starts to positively participate the fear of being rejected decreases. As the team bonds and becomes closer, whether on personal levels or just in their team environment, the adolescent no longer has to worry about trying to get out of the situation because it will be a situation that they are comfortable being in. In any of the competitive team sports, in order to succeed as a team that bonding does need to occur. This means that all of the participants will have to eventually verbally interact as they get to know their team. This may seem daunting, but actually is the type of situations that adolescents need to develop positive social behaviors. Annette La Greca and Nadja Lopez did a study to evaluate social anxiety among teens, which differs from the more commonly studied and utilized data from among adults. Their study analyzed adolescents interactions with peers and their general social environment and the linkages to social anxiety. The results showed that a major important factor in development of adolescent social functioning is having close friendships. These relationships result in emotional support, intimacy, and an expression of emotions, which are all beneficial to the emotional development of a teenager. When the adolescents have at least one person that they are close with it makes them feel like they are not an outsider. This will help prevent shying away from further social interactions. Being on a team gives teenagers that are social anxious a chance to form relationships that they may struggle to do on their own. If they fear social interaction then when they are in school, they will likely keep to themselves. By being on the team it puts them with a group that they will inevitably interact with. This could relieve the pressure of seeking out relationships on their own, because they are already in the environment where relationships are likely to result.
A common psychotherapy approach to combating disorders like social anxiety is exposure therapy. If a patient was afraid of snakes the therapist would start by having one in the same room as the patient and then eventually have the patient able to tolerate the snake being on their body. The best way to combat a fear is to face it head on. This therapy exposes someone to the very thing they fear the most which in turn eliminates the fear or at the very least makes it manageable. In an article by Steven Shearer he discusses how these this time of cognitive behavioral therapy is useful. He says that even if its self-conducted any gradual exposure lasting long enough from the anxiety to diminish is effective in combating it. Prolonged exposure, such as an hour-long practice or meeting, provides optimal time for adolescents to face their fear of interacting with their peers at the rates they are ready. The teenagers learn how to deal with the social situations that they are uncomfortable in. As more time is spent with a team the more comfortable an individual gets, which makes it easier to work on these skills.
La Greca, Annette M., and Nadja Lopez. “Social Anxiety among Adolescents: Linkages with Peer Relations and Friendships.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, vol. 26, no. 2, Apr. 1998, pp. 83–94. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=507634802&site=ehost-live.
Shearer, Steven. “Recent Advances in the Understanding and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders.” Primary Care, vol. 34, no. 3, Elsevier Inc, 2007, pp. 475–504, doi:10.1016/j.pop.2007.05.002.
Walters, Kenneth S., and Debra A. Hope. “Analysis of Social Behavior in Individuals with Social Phobia and Nonanxious Participants Using a Psychobiological Model.” Behavior Therapy, vol. 29, no. 3, 1998, pp. 387–407., doi:10.1016/s0005-7894(98)80039-7.