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Why might someone who’s feeling socially anxious be thinking of suicide?

What you need to know about feeling socially anxious and suicidal thinking

How many people who feel socially anxious and not good enough have experienced suicidal thinking, or even attempts? If you saw us talking about the rise in suicide rates in Cornwall on Spotlight recently, you’ll know this is something that our own quiet community has experienced. In fact, a significant number of people involved with Quiet Connections have felt suicidal, with some even taking action on their dangerous thoughts.

Why is suicidal thinking such a problem amongst people who feel socially anxious?

The desire for suicide consists of two parts, according to various studies: a low sense of belonging and perceived burdensomeness. Together, these are a significant predictor of suicidal ideation – and they’re two states that people who feel socially anxious have a tendency to experience.

A low sense of belonging

We’re wired for connection. Connection gives us purpose and meaning to our lives. When we experience alienation from others and we don’t feel like an integral part of a group; we get the sense that we don’t belong.

People who feel socially anxious conceal aspects of themselves that they believe don’t fit our perceived societal norms. This might mean staying completely hidden, isolating from society. Or it could be that we stay quiet. We might filter what we say so much that we don’t say anything at all. We’re trying to protect ourselves the best we can.

In being self-protective, it’s not easy to make meaningful connections and feel like a valued part of something. You know that saying about feeling lonely in a room full of people? It’s like that. We can appear to be a part of something and still not feel as though we are.

Perceived burdensomeness

Imagining our existence is a burden on family, friends or society, we might come to the conclusion that others would be better off without us around.

This is a pretty common feeling for people experiencing socially anxious feelings. When people join our quiet community, it’s clear that a lot of them are feeling this way. Many need encouragement to share their worries with anyone because they feel like they’ll be bothering others. We’re also incredibly apologetic as a group. This could be for something as simple as asking a question or wanting just a little of someone’s time – certainly not things that need apologising for.

In this video, I talk about my own suicide attempt and how I felt like I wasn’t good enough for anybody; I thought I would be doing everyone a favour if I wasn’t in their lives.

Fearing disconnection

It boils down to the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. Shame arises in response to concern with our real or imagined acceptability in other people’s eyes.

When we believe that our characteristics and behaviours are unacceptable, we feel worthless, inferior and self-critical. We fear being exposed as flawed, believing it will result in us being rejected. So we try to hide. Or disappear. And we become disconnected.

Clearly our strategies to keep safe and avoid rejection aren’t working well for us. They’re taking us further from connection. But, in our minds, our options are limited. Sometimes, it’s the best we can do with what we think we know to be true.

Look at it this way… if you don’t believe you have the skills and attributes needed to climb Mount Everest, why would you arrive at the foot of the mountain with all the gear? You’d be convinced you were setting yourself up for failure, right? Maybe even certain death (which is as bad as rejection in our books). Wouldn’t you decide that it’s better to avoid the fear of the climb and the pain of failing and not climb Mount Everest at all?

Good job you can live a happy, fulfilling life without climbing Mount Everest, huh?

If you or someone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide, it’s important to know that they’re not alone. The Quiet Community offers support and understanding from people with similar experiences, and also access to free workshops sharing helpful healthy coping strategies. Become a member for free.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark

    Interesting. I can remember suffering from teenage depression twice and some of your feelings here are quite common. I never reached the point you did, but can recognise it wasn’t that far away. I also feel that you are right in that those who have never experienced the darker side of life have never truly been able to understand the hopeless feelings of despair and hopelessness.

    By talking about these and other feelings you are doing much to help others who live with similar feelings.

    For me, it was the intervention of my late father who provided a lateral jolt. This sideways intervention provided the kick start to restart my life. I changed so many things that I had to stand on my own feet. I have certainly not looked back and have gone on to do things that I would never have done.

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