Updated: Feb 20
PART 1: The Roots of Social Anxiety
- Social anxiety is physical, mental & spiritual
- It takes time to heal
- Can you really "overcome" social anxiety?
Sensitive & Intense Temperament
OCD & Perfectionism
Human & Microbial Genetics
Example & Presence of Others
Isolation & Restricted Comfort Zone
Habits of Fear & Pride
Texting & Online Chat Conversation
Video Game & Porn Addiction
Step Out of the Darkness
The Roots of Social Anxiety
If you struggle with social anxiety, then you know what it’s like to suffer with isolation, loneliness, and fear. And I understand you, because I suffered with it for years. You want to go out and spend time with others, cultivate meaningful relationships, feel connected - but something hard as a brick wall is getting in your way, right? It is a gripping fear that won't leave you alone, except perhaps when the stars seem to align just right and you experience a few hours of relief.
One of the worst parts about suffering with social anxiety is that you crave connection and you want to be with people. It’s not as if you feel anxious because you hate people or don’t want to be around them; you just can’t seem to overcome the fear that holds you back from being yourself and developing a meaningful relationship with them.
You aren’t content to be by yourself for prolonged periods of time, in fact people are one of the most important things to you when it comes down to it. Spending time with them is one of the very things that would help heal the fear and isolation you feel.
You wish you could just simply express yourself, but fear, doubt, perfectionism, and self-consciousness hold you back a lot of the time.
You have no idea why you are so nervous all of the time. “What is wrong with me?”, you wonder. You search for answers, and try different tactics to get the fear and nervousness to go away. But you feel like nothing you try works, so you continuously feel and act self-conscious despite your best efforts.
As a child, perhaps you had a sibling or parent that didn't accept you for who you were. Perhaps they loved you, but there were always strings attached. Perhaps they were never "abusive" necessarily (or perhaps they were), but you just didn't feel they were truly there for you, because they had too much of their own suffering they were going through to really connect with you. And that was painful for you.
Maybe you didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, and you always felt like an “outsider”.
You continue to struggle with this beast that is social anxiety on a regular basis, no matter how illogical it may seem. But the fact is, it has nothing to do with logic. And that's what those who haven't experienced it don’t understand. You can't just "decide" not to be nervous or not to care what others think. It simply doesn't work that way.
You want to feel peace. You want to overcome the self-consciousness. You want to just “be yourself” and let go like everyone tells you to, but you can’t. You try so hard everyday, but it seems like the harder you try the worse things become.
Others tell you that you just need to “relax”, but what the heck does that even mean? You've hardly been able to truly relax in your entire life. You're not even sure you know how. You can't simply think your way out of this. You've tried that. You already know it doesn't work that way.
You can't battle such an illogical enemy with logic alone. You need an arsenal of specialized and cleverly designed weaponry to combat such a dastardly and maniacal foe (yes, it's that dramatic). You need an entire ring of keys to open the brick wall that stands in your way, for which there seems to be no keyholes. All you see is the wall.
I understand your pain. I know where you’re at, because I’ve been there. I was there for 15+ years. There wasn’t a time as a child, teen, or in my early 20’s that I recall not feeling this brick wall constantly in front of me. It was the one thing that stopped me from doing nearly everything else.
I thought if only I could overcome this, then I’d finally be brave enough to do the other things I was so afraid of. I’d finally drive after that goal, make that new friend, ask that girl on a date, travel to that new place, compete in that competition, go out and play that sport, go to that social event I was kindly invited to… It seemed that most things I wanted to do were shrouded by this fear, and I didn’t have any satisfying solutions.
Well, I don't have all of your answers, but I have some that have worked dang well for me, and I have the belief and hope that they can work for you too.
Let me tell you what my life is like now. I wake up most mornings feeling happy about the day ahead, rather than dreading what is to come. I feel connected to God quite often, rather than disconnected due to a constant cloud of mental illness hanging over me. I genuinely crave and enjoy being with other people, and much of my time I spend with them is experienced in a state of ease and flow. Most of the time I am not afraid to go out with people, whether that is one-on-one or to a big event. I am happy to see others and actively seek out opportunities to socialize simply because I like to and it makes me feel good, not because I feel obligated to.
But I can tell you I went through years of forcing myself to spend time with others, even though I didn't like it, until finally little by little I started to enjoy it. But don't worry, I will teach you how to do this in a way that is effective - not just simply tell you to "spend more time with people and you'll get used to it." That's stupid. It's not that simple. And anyone who says otherwise doesn't know or understand social anxiety.
You can heal social anxiety. I know because I have been free of it in most ways for over 6 years now. Don’t listen to those who tell you social anxiety is just genetic and it can’t be changed. That is a short-sighted and tragically ignorant perspective, born of false, myopic, and small-minded science and psychology. It ignores many physical, mental, and spiritual factors that are essential to healing mental illness.
Social anxiety doesn’t own your destiny, you do. And between you and God, you can heal one baby step at a time. And it does take time, a lot of it. But there are also things I will share with you that will work quite quickly, giving you some much needed relief. The journey as a whole though is highly individualistic and taken over years. I am still walking that journey to this day and there are many things I continue to do each day to manage social anxiety and continue to heal it. If me ten years ago could see my life now though, he would drop to the floor crying tears of joy.
You can experience a life free from social anxiety - one in which you have all of the tools and resources you need in your own heart and mind, through the power of the gifts of God, to manage and overcome it. You can retrain your brain and use spiritual power to overcome the mental ailments that so frequently barrage you.
Social anxiety is not your destiny, nor your birthright. Peace and joy are your birthrights. These are what God has in store for you, if only you can embrace the answers you need that you will find through the teachings of your suffering. You can walk the journey to the other side, you simply need to know the steps. When you are connected to God, he can show you those steps one pace at a time. He loves you enough not to give you all the answers right now. This is because He wants you to have the opportunity to grow, and for transformation to be something that you deeply cherish in the long-run.
Have faith. He knows the roads you have to take. He will whisper directions to you as you walk along the path.
You can heal social anxiety. It’s physical, mental, and spiritual.
You can heal by discovering and working through the trauma you have experienced. You can heal by understanding and then replacing the fear, isolation, perfectionism, and OCD you experience. You can heal by calming your immune system, removing toxins from your body, and decreasing the inflammation in your brain and organs.
You can experience the peace, confidence, and freedom from self-consciousness that you’ve been looking for.
I will give you the keys that have led to my recovery from social anxiety, empowering you with every bit of knowledge I have to help you on your journey. But just remember, this journey is between you and God. It’s not my journey, nor do I have all of your answers. But I know that God does.
What I will give you are stable, long-lasting answers that have worked for me after years of trial and error. I believe they can help you too. If not by directly giving you the solutions you are looking for, then by inspiring versions of your own.
I used to experience social anxiety 24/7. Heck, my social anxiety was so bad I often experienced it when I was alone.
I suffered from social anxiety just going to the dentist or doctor. I believed that even they needed to approve of me and think I was amazing.
I suffered with such intense insecurity that I often feared even my best friends might leave me at any time. I believed that everyone expected me to “perform” exactly the right way, and if I didn’t, then they would never talk to me again. Though, that was of course all in my head, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t feel absolutely real.
It takes time to heal
Working through social anxiety takes time - a lot of time. I’m not here to give you quick, easy answers. I will give you some methods that can begin to work relatively quickly, yes, but there are no “magic pills” in life.
It took me somewhere around 6 years of daily discovery, serious work, and, most of all, reliance on God to heal the roots of the social anxiety I experienced. To this day, I do many small things consistently to manage and continue to heal the social anxiety. But they are now habits, and fairly easy to maintain most of the time. I will say though, I do far less these days than I once did.
This is because the connective pathways in my brain have changed, and I have an altered view of myself and the world, far different from what it once was. My desires, motives, and purpose are also completely different. I very naturally perceive socializing and people in a positive way, and I am genuinely excited to talk with and listen to others much of the time.
Again, this took years. You, however, have the advantage of reading and using things that took me years of learning line upon line. You do not have to go through the struggles I did, such as using thought replacement techniques that didn’t work, or made my social anxiety even worse.
You also don’t have to pray for God to simply take away your social anxiety. It doesn’t really work that way, because He loves us enough to instruct us and let us grow, rather than simply taking something away. Where would our joy and happiness then come from if God simply did everything for us?
In addition, you have the advantage of reading about the many nutritional culprits that lead to social anxiety, and the nutritional solutions that can heal it. I had no clue that what I ate or didn’t eat played any kind of a role in the anxiety and depression I once experienced. If only I knew, I would have quit dairy, processed sugar, and westernized gluten long ago.
Can you really “overcome” social anxiety?
While I fully believe you can overcome anxiety and depression in this lifetime, I also believe that it is wise to be at peace with and accept that you may never entirely overcome it for good. I do not say this to cause you to become complacent or give up, but rather to make peace with this and be compassionate on yourself, as you continue to learn and grow and experience this fear at different points in time.
I believe it is best never to say you have “overcome” something, as saying this likely cause you to feel frightened if you ever experience it again. You have an entire life yet to experience, with stressors you do not yet know. These can cause old skeletons to emerge from the closet, and when this happens being surprised and saying “but I thought I overcame this for good?!” is not helpful.
Instead, accepting the possibility that you may or may not experience something difficult in the future allows you to be more at peace when it comes and then to have faith that will again pass through utilizing the tools and resources you have come to know so well.
Struggles and suffering are opportunities, chances to grow and become stronger. They are not unfair, nor are they unreasonable. It is a purging, a time to dig deeper and root out the fear, pride, insecurity, etc. even further. It simply means you have more room to grow. Imagine that! A human with more room to grow? Who would have ever thought?
I myself experienced social anxiety just recently. It was very unexpected, as the last time I experienced it was probably around a year ago. But, I had the tools and the inspiration of God I needed to manage it and “overcome” it once again, and within 2 days I was back to the homeostasis I have become accustomed to.
This is the reason I have put quotation marks around “overcome” in the title of this guide. I would never consider myself having “overcome” social anxiety, as it can always come back. But again, I have the spiritual, mental, and nutritional weapons to combat it now. I am here to share those same weapons with you.
You can go to battle with cunning and cleverness, and with defense and offense that is far beyond what this illness can dish out in return. Best of all, the more times you go to battle and win, the more the old habits of fear and nervousness will shrink, occurring less frequently and with less intensity over time.
You can get to the point where you have social anxiety so well managed that it may even seem to you that you have “overcome” it. You can experience this. I know, because I have.
The Roots of Social Anxiety
Sensitive & Intense Temperament
OCD & Perfectionism
Human & Microbial Genetics
Example & Presence of Others
Isolation & Restricted Comfort Zone
Habits of Fear & Pride
Texting & Online Chat Conversation
Video Game & Porn Addiction
Social anxiety is rooted in perfectionism, shame, pride, fear, deeply-ingrained habits, and a body (especially a gut and brain) that are in a constant state of inflammation and immune response. With God as your guide, you can heal these ailments over time.
First, I’ll share with you the roots of social anxiety as I understand them. There are many, but I believe it is important that they are all shared. There are others I’m sure I’m unaware of, but I can only share those I know.
Perhaps you can gain some insight into your own social anxiety. Becoming aware of the problem can empower you. If you don’t understand the source of the issue, how can you overcome it? Though this is probably not a universal rule, it is certainly a frequent one.
After I discuss the roots of social anxiety, I will share all of the things I have done for the past 11 years to work through and eventually “overcome” social anxiety as a whole.
Trauma is different for everyone. What may be extremely traumatic for one person may hardly phase someone else. It completely depends on your temperament, the level of inflammation in your body and brain, and many other factors.
One of the foremost traumas I suffered growing up was the lack of acceptance from a person we'll call "Ashton". I never felt loved by "Ashton", and what they thought of me was so very important to me. I wanted their affection so desperately. I worked very hard to “earn” it, but I could never seem to be enough for them. Or at least, that was how it seemed to me. This was very hard for me, and the trauma followed me for years.
"Ashton" struggled with many of their own insecurities and traumas, and they and I were very different people. They had their own demons to fight, and their own severe anxiety and depression to battle. So, I understand why they treated me the way they did. It’s okay, and today I accept that we are just very different and that they never desired to hurt me - in fact, they always wanted to be a great influence and positive part of my life, but just never knew how, nor felt like they had the capacity to do so. I forgive them, and I understand.
Nonetheless, I carried feelings that I was unacceptable and unlovable my entire life, and many of these feelings stemmed from my experiences with "Ashton" and how they felt about and treated me. It impacted every single relationship I had, including the romantic ones. All the while, I had no idea I was living under the influence of "Ashton", even when they were no longer a part of my life.
That was until I went through an intense therapeutic process, using a book called Living the Truth by Dr. Kieth Ablow.
This book opened my mind and made me aware of the trauma I had experienced and was constantly reliving. I discovered I had been repeating the same pattern I experienced with Ashton, over and over again. In a very real way, I was substituting the relationships in my life with the one I had with Ashton - constantly seeking Ashton's approval and affection, psychologically putting Ashton in the place of all other people I interacted with.
I chose friends who weren’t good to me, people whose affection was hard to earn, and girls who treated me poorly and whose approval was near impossible to get. I kept reliving the same trauma I had faced with Ashton.
Granted, I was similar to these toxic people in many ways, and so it went both ways. This is one of the greatest tragedies of trauma - we tend to reflect the very same things that are causing us the most pain, repeating and perpetuating those tragic experiences in others’ lives in addition to our own.
So, who is your "Ashton"? Was there someone in your life that you felt conditionally loved by, or even rejected and betrayed by? Do you hold hate for them, and are they continuing to rule your life to this day?
In addition to this relational trauma I suffered with "Ashton", I experienced traumas such as frequent moves from house to house and school to school, strained relationships with siblings and parents, and frequent sickness as a child, which caused me to feel isolated and alone.
While these things were hard, in many ways they were only so hard because of my temperament. Others may have experienced the same things as I did and not been phased. And that's the thing about trauma - it is purely in the eyes of the beholder. What is hard for one person may not be hard for someone else. And that's okay.
Remember that it isn't about the reality of what happened, it is about your perception of it. Something that may seem small to one person may have been very big for you, and that has to do with many factors including your human and microbial genetics, your past experiences, and the eternal spirit you came to earth with. Accept that it was hard for you, and then seek to deeply understand the reasons for what happened and forgive yourself and others. I'll teach you more about how to do this in Part 2.
For instance, I felt that my parents were emotionally unavailable to me. This was traumatic for me personally. It wasn't because they were bad, abusive, or selfish people (I was blessed not to be in that kind of a situation). They were very loving, supportive parents. They sacrificed a great deal for me, they always provided a safe home, and they were supportive of all of the things that I wanted to be and do.
My parents tried very hard and did so much for me. But they had so much they were tackling, from parenting 6 children, to work, to financial hardships, to their own mental illnesses they were navigating... I often felt they couldn't be present and truly there to listen to me, and that they weren't genuinely interested in me.
For me, as a child with an extremely sensitive temperament and a great deal of insecurity and anxiety, I felt such strong and ever-present inner turmoil that it almost didn't matter what others around me did. My parents also had almost no way of knowing what I was going through, as I never talked about it. I wouldn't open up, because not even I understood it or knew that I was experiencing a mentally ill existence. It was just...normal to me.
My parents had a lot to navigate and they did so much for me, but I never felt I got the attention or understanding that I needed. I often felt they were distracted, and that what I did didn't impressed them or matter enough to them. But of course, this was through the eyes of a mentally ill child.
This was in part because of my perception, as well as because of the upbringing my parents experienced and the level of depth of understanding and connection they knew in their own families growing up. They were, after all, giving far better to me than what they had.
Having talked to my parents about this and coming to a mutual understanding, I can now see that they gave everything they had to us kids, but unfortunately I required much more as a child with severe social anxiety and perfectionism.
I am fortunate enough now to have a good relationship with my parents. We both have been able to work through much of the mental illness we have suffered and have formed a much better relationship. But I realize that not all are as fortunate as this.
Perhaps you can relate to my experience growing up? Perhaps there were pains or sadness in your life that don't seem "traumatic" from the outside, but for you they were very hurtful? Maybe you had parents that were good people, but you didn't feel they paid very close attention to you because they were dealing with so much. Perhaps you felt insignificant or abandoned, and you don't quite understand why.
Until I became aware of these traumas, and genuinely accepted the way it felt for me - not for anyone else - I could not overcome these traumas nor find understanding. It took years of retraining my brain and working through an in-depth forgiveness process for my siblings, my parents, and myself, understanding the reasons that I felt they were emotionally unavailable to me, and finding peace with that and a gratitude for how those struggles have made me who I am today.
What relationships can you think of in your life that may have been (or currently are) like this? How can you accept the pain and hurt, and come to an eventual understanding and forgiveness for that person or those people? How can you stop allowing that trauma to rule your life, and instead be able to accept it for what it is, and then forgive?
Doing this will take repeated efforts, with many, many sessions of writing, contemplation, and prayer. It is best if you can talk to that individual about the trauma, but that is not always possible nor helpful. Writing about it on your own may be the best call, depending on the circumstance.
Remember that forgiveness and working through trauma is often deep, complex, and challenging. It is almost never as simple as saying "I forgive you."
Naturally sensitive & intense temperament
I grew up an extremely conscientious and concerned child. I was what people often call a “highly sensitive person” - still am, though my highly sensitive nature works as an advantage for me in many ways now. Though that’s not to say it’s never hard or doesn’t still get me into trouble.
If you are someone with social anxiety, you probably know exactly what it feels like to be the “highly sensitive” person I’m referring to. It’s no joke (though it does kind of sound like one).
Being highly sensitive is a natural temperament that may cause you to be more emotional, conscientious, intense, and aware of others’ feelings. Depending on how you deal with it, being highly sensitive can cause you to feel insecure and be harder on yourself, or it can cause you to be more calloused and “emotionless” if you’ve coped by shutting off your emotions and withdrawing from others.
Being highly sensitive can be a powerful strength and a debilitating weakness. Your emotions may be closer to the surface; your “norm” may be a state of moderate concern and worry (though this can be helped); you are concerned about small details that many people probably don’t even think about; you like things neat and orderly and you begin to feel overwhelmed when something is out of place. You are also highly mindful of others and want to make sure they are taken care of and get what they need. You worry that you may miss something and that it will be your fault if every little thing is not taken care of.
Does any of this sound familiar?
I understand how it feels to be “high-strung”, overly concerned, and constantly conscious of what others are thinking of me (or more accurately, what I perceive they are thinking of me).
I was highly concerned and constantly stressed like this throughout my childhood and into my early 20’s. The life I experienced fluctuated anywhere from a mild discomfort to a severe overwhelm. It was like that about 80-90% of the time with some happy moments sprinkled in between.
But again, my life is not like this any more, and yours doesn’t need to be either.
As a side note, I'd like to mention it can be especially challenging handling these emotions if you or someone you love experiences autism and anxiety. I won't speak about this in my works, but here is a great resource if you're looking for more information on this.
Keep reading and stay tuned for solutions that can make a real difference for you if you experience social anxiety.
OCD and perfectionism
In many ways, social anxiety is simply obsession and compulsion, or OCD. Social anxiety finds its roots in perfectionism, which is in some ways the beliefs “I’m not good enough” (shame) and “I don’t do enough".
Perfectionism is this shame deeply ingrained in the mind and progressively intensified until it becomes a personality trait. It may be so deep that it is imperceptible to the one suffering.
Throughout my childhood and into my early 20’s, I was always seeking to become more, more, MORE. Nothing I ever did was good enough for my inner critic. It wasn't just that I wanted to do more with my life, it was that I felt deeply flawed, that I was missing something others had. I was so delusionally convinced of this (unbeknownst to myself), that I would self-sabotage to ensure that I would fail, act strange, or disappoint myself and others. I still have these tendencies.
This, in a very real way, is OCD - obsession and compulsion. We obsess over a particular idea, belief, or identity, which consumes our mind. We then compulsively, almost inadvertently, react to these obsessions, perpetuating them through our thoughts, words, and actions, continuing to cause ourselves and others pain. We thereby solidify our rationale for our obsession and deepen our habit, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is important to note that this is not entirely mental. There is a physical component to this disorder that can be improved via diet and the cleansing of toxins from the body. I’ll speak more about this later on.
I certainly believe that we should always be seeking to grow and improve who we are. But there is a difference between believing who I am right now is unlovable and I must change, and who I am right now is acceptable and lovable and I simply want to become a better version of myself. These are two very different mindsets with completely different outcomes.
Social anxiety is essentially shame and perfectionism manifesting in our relationships and interactions with others. For some, shame and perfectionism turn to anger and rage. Others become depressed. Others are hyper detailed and obsessively meticulous. For those of us who suffer from social anxiety, we have become perfectionistic about people’s opinions of us and expect too much of ourselves in social situations. But of course, this often comes hand-in-hand with things like anger, depression, etc.
We have unrealistic views of how others perceive us, and we make one of the most important aspects of our worth what other people think of us, rather than our worth being anchored in our identity as a child of God and a human being worthy of love. We also often put the perceptions of others ahead of what we are passionate about, proud of, or what's important to us.
We obsessively and compulsively think and act in ways that bring us suffering. We avoid social situations and we make up excuses for not showing up. We worry constantly that others may not like us, or that they will abandon us (and of course that's because we have been abandoned before). This causes us to abandon others and not fully be there for them. We act in ways that are desperate, attention-seeking, or we self-sabotage our interactions with others. We suffer from a belief that we are not enough and we obsessively think about this and ourselves, sometimes making ourselves into a victim.
All of this comes in part from our unwillingness to accept imperfection in ourselves, those around us, and in the many situations we find ourselves in.
These are habits, and we often aren’t aware of them. But when we learn to recognize them, we can heal. We are meant to experience struggle here on earth, so that we can overcome it - whether in this life or the next.
Selfishness and social anxiety are manifestations of shame and perfectionism, and they are both self-centered. But they certainly are not a reflection of being a bad person, just as anger and aggression aren’t a display of it either. These are all misguided coping mechanisms, the reflection of and natural reaction to internal suffering and turmoil, not the intent to do harm.
OCD and perfectionism are coping mechanisms we develop to protect ourselves (albeit severely flawed ones).
All this does not make us good or bad. It simply is.
Consider the possibility that you came to earth knowing you would face these struggles, and yet you volunteered for them because you knew it was the only way you could learn, grow, overcome, and become who God intends you to be.
Human and microbial genetics
Most of us have sat in high school biology class and learned about inherited DNA, RNA, gene sequencing, etc. What some of us do not know though is the importance of inherited microbial genetic makeup.
That’s right, microbial as in bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, etc. This genetic inheritance, as science is coming to understand only in the last few decades, is likely even more influential on our overall health and well-being than human genetic inheritance. We have trillions upon trillions of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, viruses, parasites, protozoa, and archaea throughout the entirety of our body and brain. Collectively, this is referred to as our human microbiome.
When we are healthy, most of these microbes are essential to our physical and mental health. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species of bacteria, for instance, are responsible in part for synthesizing our serotonin, dopamine, and GABA neurotransmitters that are used by our brain and body. If you’d like to learn more about how bacteria do this, click here.
Our gut is the hub of a majority of our microbiome. Our gut and brain communicate with one another. Based on the microbial makeup of our gut, we may experience a life of transcendent peace, or one of severe inflammation, stress, and unrest. Our gut microbiome is such a central determinant of mental health, multiple practices (mostly in Europe) are conducting treatments right now for mental illness through the manipulation of the gut microbiome, and they are having success.
When we lack enough beneficial species of bacteria, our body cannot assimilate many nutrients, nor synthesize neurotransmitters and hormones properly. Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria, and Bacilli species modify nutrients so they can be used and absorbed by our body and take part in multiple hormonal and neurochemical processes for our nervous system and brain. And this does not even scratch the surface.
There are also many microbes that can cause us suffering. Parasites, candida, and other harmful yeasts and bacteria can be the administrators of damage and malfunction in the gut, immune system, and brain, which may lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Viruses such as Epstein-Barr may also be sources of physical and mental distress, as it has been theorized that they feed on toxins in the body, excreting more harmful versions of those toxins and creating severe inflammation in the body and brain. (Thyroid Healing, Anthony Williams)
When we are born, we inherit the microbiome of our mother. The imbalance of our mother’s microbiome can lead to complications during gestation, which can cause deficiencies or sub-optimal conditions for the fetus. Your mother’s diet, emotional state, and spiritual state all came together to impact how you developed.
But this is not just negative, it also means that all of the good things that a mother does also impact her fetus, and that is certainly a hopeful thing. In addition, human beings are resilient, and we can overcome anything.
None of this means that we are destined or doomed to live our lives defined by our human or microbial genetic inheritance. What is wonderful is that we can alter our microbial makeup to miraculous extents. We can also alter our genetic expression throughout our lifetime through spiritual, mental, and nutritional remedies (Regenerate, Sayer Ji).
One of the common misconceptions about food allergies and sensitivities is that they can only impact us physically, such as breaking out in hives, throat swelling, diarrhea, constipation, etc. This is not the case. Many experience psychological reactions to certain foods, but this can be challenging to recognize as food sensitivity symptoms can occur up to 72 hours after eating a food. In addition, if you experience a psychological reaction to a food, but you are consuming that food every day, you may simply believe that you struggle with a mental illness and that it is isolated from any kind of dietary causes.
Food sensitivities can include anxiety, depression, brain fog, fatigue, and even schizophrenia. I have read multiple case studies of individuals who have experienced minor or major relief from mental illness simply by removing dairy, sugar, or gluten from their diet. I myself have experienced powerful relief from anxiety, depression, and OCD by removing these inflammatory foods from my own diet.
It is possible for us to have a food sensitivity to something we would traditionally consider healthy. This is completely dependent on our own individual microbiome and biological structure. In addition, in westernized society we consume many foods that are no longer in their original, natural form, and are known to create physical and mental health issues.
If you’d like more information on how changes in dairy, sugar, and gluten in modern westernized society could potentially lead to food sensitivities and mental illness, read my article The Western Mutation of Dairy, Sugar, and Wheat.
Mental illnesses like social anxiety are tied to chronic inflammation and an immune system on overdrive. Chronic inflammation and disease come from too many toxins in and not enough toxins out. In other words, your body is facing a toxic load that is creating imbalance and damage, and it does not have the capacity or necessary resources to flush the toxins out.
If your immune system is on overdrive and your brain and body are overwhelmed with toxins, parasites, harmful bacteria, fungi, etc. then you will have inflammation throughout the body, leading to a stressed brain, malabsorption of nutrients, and other problems.
If your physical body is in a state of peace, then your capacity to overcome destructive and discouraging thoughts is exponentially increased. I would even argue that many of those thoughts will no longer appear when your body is in balance. Though, such a state is hard to achieve when we face the severe toxicity in our food supply, water supply, and air that we breathe.
Typically, we would receive an abundance of earth’s medicines in the food that we eat, but our situation is further complicated by the depleted soil that much of our food is grown in. This has led to our food lacking the nutritional density we once enjoyed, and which suffered a severe hit during the mid-1900’s and the “Green Revolution”. This is why buying local, organic produce or growing your own food can be an important part of healing your mental illness.
Less toxins + high nutritional density = decreased inflammation, a strong immune system, and more nutrients for your body & brain to work with.
Example & Presence of Others
I grew up with parents who were motivated by fear in some ways and dealt with a lot of their own mental illness. This is not in any way to say they didn’t do right by me, or weren't excellent examples in many ways. Nonetheless, I observed and learned from them, the good and the bad.
I grew up in a home of siblings who were often disconnected and emotionally unavailable for one another. We couldn't be close because we didn't understand how to be.
I believe it is not just watching and learning from the examples of those around us that impacts how we act, but it is also their spiritual and mental presence.
We can feel it when we are around others who operate out of fear, jealousy, or pride. They don’t even have to say or do anything in particular - it’s their “vibe”.
We may feel anxious, nervous, or self-conscious around them, and we don’t know why.
We may even become more negative or judgmental when we are around them.
Someone may be really nice on the outside, but we just feel “icky” when we are around them.
This is their presence - their spiritual and mental energy. Which is why it is so important for each of us to work to be filled with God's love and presence so we can genuinely feel it for others, rather than simply pretending.
People can also have very positive, uplifting impacts on us. Like how we become 10x as funny as usual when we are around one person in particular. Or when we just feel happier or more confident being around someone specific.
Who we are on the inside impacts those around us. Our intentions literally emanate from us and others can feel those intentions.
As we grow up, we often become like those that we spend the most time around (though not always). My parents suffered with social anxiety, which they passed to me genetically (both in my human and microbial genome), and which I picked up from them by spending time in their presence and watching their examples.
This doesn’t happen to everyone of course, as it didn’t happen to a few of my siblings. It just depends on the particular weaknesses we are prone to and the experiences we have individually.
People can suffer through horrendous circumstances far more trying than what I experienced, and come out with greater strength and resilience (though often not without scars).
All this is not to cause you to feel like a victim to the presence of others, but to give you understanding for yourself and the challenges you have.
That being said, you can become strong enough through the workings of God’s Spirit to surpass these influences, and become a beacon to others. You can lift up those around you rather than being influenced by the negativity or darkness of others. But it is also good to have understanding for yourself if being around some people causes you to feel negative. Minimize your time with these people and spend time as much as you can with those you feel are better than you, so you can become better too.
Many of my closest relationships growing up weren't very close. I suffered with mental illness and didn't understand many of my own feelings, and my siblings and parents had many of their own insecurities and mental illness to battle as well.
This environment caused me to fear vulnerability and become inept for a time at forming deep, meaningful relationships. I wouldn’t allow others in, and I believed others wouldn’t allow me in. I didn’t know how to open up or what a deep relationship even looked like. This is the same for many who grow up in homes like I did - we aren’t even aware that there is a better way or that things could be any different than they are. It also wasn't a bad home by any means, which made it difficult to discern the disconnection or emotional issues that we each suffered.
We can’t come to know others deeply if we don’t know ourselves deeply. We also can't become close to others if we aren't willing to share with them our feelings of struggle, sadness, or fear, and to seek to understand theirs as well.
I did not understand my own emotions or my insecurities throughout much of my life. These things were hidden to me, as I was in the habit of ignoring, numbing, and not communicating or talking with others about them.
Because I isolated myself and followed the example emotional disconnectedness of others in my family, it became clear to me as a child that others would not be there for me (or at least that’s how I perceived it). And so, I spent a lot of time playing video games and watching TV, and eventually getting into porn and drugs, and very little time being there for others.
The shallow, selfish relationships I had in my life made spending time with people a scary, unknown, and unpleasant realm. Some of this was the fault of those I grew up with, and the rest was my fault for not growing, learning, and being brave. But I also did not have the knowledge or tools I needed to grow deep relationships, nor did I even know I didn't have those relationships in the first place. So, instead of going out and experiencing, I spent a lot of time at home doing low risk activities - video games, TV, and eating food.
Of course, I wasn’t without friends or experiences, but I did very little in comparison to what I felt I wanted to do and who I wanted to become. I needed purpose, intensity, and excitement - the good kind. I often felt unfulfilled, frustrated, and lonely and I didn’t understand why. Perhaps you can relate to some of these feelings?
Isolation & a Restricted Comfort Zone
There is much to be said simply for getting out, getting social, and expanding your comfort zone. As a child and teen, I spent a lot of time in the house, playing video games and doing things on my own, or with my younger brother and parents. This was my small, restricted comfort zone. Meeting people outside of that comfort zone was a great challenge for me. I would often feel fear about social events days or even weeks before the event would happen.
As a child, I was sick a lot, which is actually a fairly common occurrence for those who suffer with social anxiety. I had a lot of digestive issues and headaches, which kept me from going out and playing. This was one of the things that caused me to spend a lot of time alone, and to build the habit of avoiding people, even after I got better.
I lived in a household with parents who had social anxiety, and a couple other siblings who took after them (including myself). We enabled each other, often finding excuses to avoid inviting people over or going out to community functions. We’d say “I’m just too tired”, “I think I’m getting sick”, “I have too much going on”, or “I just want to spend time with the family tonight.”
There was a lot of perfectionism in my home, and the overall theme underlying many of our choices was to avoid risk, because then we could ensure we didn’t face fear, embarrassment, or uncertainty.
In my early 20’s, I started practicing spiritual, mental, and nutritional methods to heal social anxiety. At the same time, and in many ways as a result of these practices, I began to expand my comfort zone. I started to become capable of being brave, trying new things, and meeting new people.
The more I did this, the more my comfort zone grew little by little. Facing new situations, being in crowded places, and meeting new people became quite normal for me after several years. But that didn’t happen without an awful lot of mental, spiritual, and nutritional work to help me ease into it. I didn’t just simply power my way or “positive think” my way into getting out and being more social.
If you’d like to watch a video on how to mentally and spiritually prepare for social interactions, check out my video How to Prepare for Social Interaction.
Habits of Fear & Pride
We sometimes think of habits as physical, explicit things - like tying our shoes or shooting a basketball. A habit can also be a state of mind, a reaction to a familiar situation, or even a personality trait. These habits can become so deep and pervasive that we can’t remember how they formed.
Growing up in a home filled with quite a bit of pride and fear, I built the habit of seeing the world and other people with a fearful and prideful outlook. These habits cut me off from others and caused me to focus on myself rather than on blessing others.
In some ways, social anxiety is simply deep-rooted, subconscious pride and fear. Let me tell you more about what I mean by this.
Social anxiety is fear. This fear is what keeps us from connecting with ourselves, others, and God. It is this fear that keeps us isolated and stops us from reaching out to others and freely expressing ourselves. It causes us to withhold our love and to avoid deeper and more vulnerable connections with others.
Social anxiety is also pride. Pride keeps us focused on ourselves. It causes us to be selfish, and to feel the need to be perceived positively by others. We care so much about what others think of us that we make their liking of us more important than our own self-worth as well as serving and helping them. If we were to instead separate from our ego, to align ourselves with the will of God, then we could feel whole and be caught up in the service of our fellow brothers and sisters, forgetting ourselves and becoming free of anxiety and depression.
But of course, doing this can feel impossible. There are many complex factors of social anxiety that make it extremely challenging to work through. So, while I say that social anxiety is pride and fear, understand that I mean it is pride and fear that is lodged deeply in the subconscious, even the soul. It cannot be removed simply by thinking good thoughts or “being positive”. I’ll share many solutions to this pride and fear later on.
Entertainment saturation, dopamine drain, & attachment to material pleasure
As a kid and teenager, I spent a lot of time playing video games, watching TV, and wasting hours on useless, but entertaining, Youtube videos. Though I did not understand it at the time, these activities were directly contributing to my social anxiety.
Hours spent in sedentary, highly stimulating activities will bring about anxiety and depression. We are all witnesses to this impact, both in ourselves and others. It is one of the roots of the anxiety/depression epidemic we are facing today.
A hundred years ago, if we wanted to have fun, we needed to make that fun happen. We needed to go out, get creative, get to work, read, write, explore, learn, etc. We could not simply sit down and let something else feed us - we had to feed ourselves.
You can think of this like royalty who sit on their throne while servants provide food and entertainment for them. As we well know, royalty who squandered their responsibilities and spent their days in the service of their own pleasures were not pleasant people to be led by, nor were they very happy.
When we choose activities that do not cause us to be active, learning, and growing, we shrink and become unfulfilled, unmotivated, and anxious. We are eternal beings that crave purpose. We need to make a difference in the world and contribute to it - this is the reason we are here. When we spend time in activities that do not make us a better person or contribute anything to ourselves, our minds, or others, we begin to struggle with our identity, purpose, and sense of self-worth.
To bring this to a neurological level, we are suffering with a society-wide dopamine drain in westernized culture. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that causes us to feel pleasure, fulfillment, and satisfaction. When we are continuously watching TV, scrolling through TikTok, blowing up zombies on Xbox, and watching base pleasure Youtube videos...all of these spike our dopamine with almost no effort on our part. And this is not dopamine that causes us to feel fulfilled, but purely to feel pleasure.
Our brain becomes conditioned to these pleasurable chemicals flowing continuously, with no work, growth, or effort to bring them about. This causes us to become trapped in a cycle of craving, and leaves us feeling depleted, always looking for that next high.
How can something as slow and normal as building relationships possibly compete with violent video games, hilarious Youtube videos, or social media feeds that hit us with fabricated connection after fabricated connection?
There is no risk involved in these activities, no effort, and no buy-in. It requires little of us and provides pure, carnal pleasure in return.
I used to play video games. I don’t anymore. I used to watch TV for 2-3 hours most days. I don’t anymore. I also don’t spend time scrolling through social media or watching hours of youtube videos.
That being said, I know that it sucks trying to get off of these forms of entertainment, even if you want to. They are incredibly entertaining and addictive and you can feel incapable of stopping.
I will share more about how to overcome these challenges later on.
Texting and online chat conversation
I want to mention texting and direct messaging specifically here, as these are some solid culprits when it comes to the development of social anxiety. Communicating via these methods frequently significantly worsened the social anxiety I experienced as a teenager, and I can see its impact on many others every day.
To clarify, I’m not referring to simple texts to set up plans, message a group, or for the sake of functional convenience. I am referring to text and online chat conversations that replace what we would be better to have in person or over the phone.
In my late teens, I discovered that the less I communicated via text and online messaging, and replaced these with real, vulnerable conversations, the more my social anxiety dissipated. By no means was this the whole answer, but it helped.
Online and text messaging provide a barrier of safety we can hide behind. We can have predictable conversations and think of calculated responses. We don’t have to speak, control our tone, or use body language of any kind. It is far less effort and trains our brain to become used to certainty, predictability, and laziness in communication.
When we instead practice talking face-to-face, our brain develops mechanisms to meet the higher demand, and we connect and bond far better with others.
Texting is fine, but we are better off leaving long, drawn-out conversations for in-person or over the phone. Texting can cause us to think about what we are going to say far too much before we say it, giving us too much time to hyper-analyze our words and others words, obsessing over their composition.
I text of course. It’s pretty much a necessity these days. But when I do, it is most often for convenient and functional purposes. I leave conversation for the real world. This way, I am not developing the habit of thinking too much about what I am going to say next, and I do not train my brain to expect socializing to be predictable, calculated, and low effort. I’m not saying you have to do this, I’m just saying it can help.
Video game and pornography addiction
Any addiction will increase anxiety and depression. From the time I was a child and into my early 20’s, video games and pornography were my drugs of choice. I bring this up because millions upon millions of men are struggling with these exact addictions right now and they are experiencing severe mental illness in part as a result of them.
Many of them are completely unaware that video games and porn contribute to their anxiety, depression, and anger. In addition, they may be unaware of their mental illness altogether, in denial that there is anything wrong, or lacking the self-awareness to see their mental state for what it is. This is caused by the addiction and the mind and soul numbing effects of video games and pornography. Addiction fills the mind with noise, making us unable to discern wisdom. It also twists the heart, causing us to feel cut off from God’s love and those around us.
I had no clue that I struggled with mental illness until I was 18, as I was not aware enough or mature enough to know it. Nor did I know that video games were directly contributing to the social anxiety I experienced everyday (porn on the other hand I pretty much always knew was bad news).
Both pornography and video games blast your dopamine levels through the roof and steal your sense of purpose and connection to other human beings and to God. They cause you to be overstimulated and expect extremely intense entertainment and pleasure.
How can normal life, filled with work, difficulties, mundanity, and risk possibly compete with video games’ highly predictable stream of levels, bosses, jewels, points, and quests? How can slow, hard earned, genuine relationships possibly compete with the wild, rapid-fire sexual experiences of pornography?
Porn drains your neurotransmitters, damages neural pathways, and trains you to believe that connections with others are nothing but instant, naked pleasure. It causes your attention span to break down, your motivation to shatter, your desire to work and accomplish to wane, and your sense of responsibility to drain. It also breaks a barrier of proximity to another human being that should only be broken once two people have earned each others’ trust and established a long-term commitment.
When you violate these eternal laws, you suffer for it. You experience darkness, anger, fear, pride, and everything else that comes with basking in carnal pleasures. This can certainly lead to the development of social anxiety, as it did for me.
All this does not even mention the human sex trafficking, sex slavery, and bruttally abused women that make up most of the pornography biz that is accessible online. These are not women that enjoy what they are doing. These are women that are being forced to commit sexual debaucheries, under threat of severe abuse and even death.
Pornography is not glamorous, it is vile and sadistic. It is dehumanization of the most fundamental and horrendous fashion. We CANNOT partake in this kind of entertainment and not expect our minds and souls to be damaged severely, leading to darkness, fear, and sadness.
If we want to overcome social anxiety, we must fill our lives with light and goodness. We must spend time doing things that benefit others, require work, and do not degrade others or ourselves. We cannot spend hours each day partaking in base pleasures like video games, pornography, and violent media and not expect to suffer for it. We are born for far more than this, and when we do not use our birthright to pursue worthwhile endeavors, we violate our eternal identity and experience dissonance between who we are and who we want to be.
Step Out of the Darkness and into the Light
One fundamental cause of anxiety and depression can be the impact of a life saturated with base pleasures. This isn’t to say that if you spend your days in positive pursuits you won’t experience anxiety and depression. It depends on you as an individual. What I am saying though is that your chances of experiencing social anxiety goes up substantially when you are constantly doing things that are unfulfilling and highly entertaining. I know this because coming off of TV, video games, porn, and junk food all caused a major shift in my mental health. I’ve seen the same for numerous people I’ve spoken to over the years.
There are base pleasures, and then there are noble pleasures. Noble pleasures require us to work, learn, and grow. We earn the entertainment and we experience long-term satisfaction. Base pleasures require very little, if anything, from us to experience a reward.
Now more than ever, base pleasures are readily accessible every moment of everyday. They are in our living rooms, stuffed inside our pockets, and in the gas station down the street. At the click of a mouse we can experience thousands of 6 second hilarious clips on TikTok or endless sexual arousals. With the press of a button we can enter a world of zombies, magic, or high speed chases, all without leaving our couch.
One of the most pressing challenges we face in our age is choosing what to do with our time. If we choose things that are easy, we will experience misery. If we choose things that are hard, then we will often reap the rewards of inner peace and fulfillment. If we choose to focus on ourselves and do things out of self-interest, we will experience fear, loneliness, and low self-love. If we choose to focus on God and serving our fellow brothers and sisters, then we will experience love, peace, and self-actualization.
Beyond the difference between base pleasures and noble pleasures though, I must also say that violence, sexuality, language, etc. found in video games, movies, and music take stimulation to the next level and cause further damage to the brain and spirit. These things will not bring us joy - they degrade the spirit, desensitize the mind, and bring ignorance, malice, and apathy. We surely will experience more fear, anxiety, and depression when we invite these things in. They impact our perceptions, our neurotransmitter levels, and our souls.
Now, let me tell you how to kick social anxiety’s butt.