(I think the one on the right feels a bit left out.)
How does one become less anxious in social situations, or, if the anxiety becomes pathological, help the brain change itself enough to adequately function in social situations? it seems a bit more complex than the examples from my last post - snakes and planes.
The general principal remains in that exposing oneself to those situations makes it more likely the brain will figure out how to navigate them. The opposite tack, avoiding social situations, does not have that potential. Though it offers temporary relief as the anxiety-provoking situation does not need to be experienced, the brain has had no chance to change the connections leading to less anxiety.
Most would not argue with this line of thinking and understand that the best way to overcome anxiety is to face it, and it's like likely that person has tried that approach many times. Still, the anxiety remains or even gets worse. So, how come it's not working?
One reason likely is that the individual is not experiencing safety in the situations. Each exposure simply reinforces what the body already feels such as general unease with the interaction or the racing heartbeat, shortness of breath that feels like a physical threat. After the individual exposes herself to such an experience for the 500th, her brain decides it is better off avoiding that or similar situations.
For the brain to feel there is nothing to fear, it and the body have to feel safe in those situations. That safety could be a relaxed state, feelings of elation, a real connection with the other individuals, etc. The brain has to associate positive feelings with those interactions so that it will look to engage in those interactions going forward.
The difficulty with anxiety is that it can often hinder such feelings of safety. For the individual who experiences intense anxiety, most forays into the social world end up feeling crappy. The individual pushes herself to take yet another chance to engage and feels failure more often than not. "Feels" is the key word here. Objectively, everything could be going fine, but the individual