Social Anxiety

By Josiah Garber

Problem/Condition

I. Definition

Biblical perspective

Biblically, social anxiety comes from the underlying main issue of pride. That is to say that social anxiety is a sin that stems from a person focusing on themselves too much. The person with social anxiety sees the approval of man as the ultimate good in their lives. This means that they despair when they believe that they will not receive that approval that they feel they need. Therefore, social anxiety is a sinful self-centeredness that is the inverse of self-exaltation. This self-centeredness then replaces God with a love of oneself that manifests itself in either traditional prideful actions or, in the case of social anxiety, a despair that the one does not live up to the standard that they believe they should. Effectively, the god of the person who is struggling with social anxiety is himself. Social Anxiety manifests itself in people feeling inferior to those around them. Viewing ourselves as less than we are, less than God created us to be, stops us from loving others the way that we should.

Scripture calls social anxiety sin very clearly. This is seen first of all in Matthew 6:25-34 where Christ exhorts all not to worry. In this passage, we are called to not be anxious.  Anxiety is shown to be useless; it will not add a single day to our life. Instead, Christ calls us to focus on the struggles of today. It is a call to focus on what we are currently up against, not our fears of the future. This whole passage, through the analogy of the flowers and of the sparrows, emphasizes the sovereignty of God. He is the one who will provide for all of our needs.

A second passage that deals with this issue is Philippians 4:6-9. In these brief few verses, Paul commands the Philippians to “not be anxious about anything.” Social Anxiety, then would  be included. This is a clear demonstration that anxiety is sin. However, Paul gives the solution to anxiety in this passage. That is, he states that the one who is anxious is to give their requests to God in thanksgiving, prayer, and faith. Peace, he states, is the result of this. This means that faith is important as the believer must trust not that God will grant what they want, but that He will give what is best for them.

Secular perspective

Social Anxiety Disorder, also called Social Phobia, is defined as “an emotion characterized by apprehension and somatic symptoms of tension in which an individual anticipates impending danger, catastrophe, or misfortune. The body often mobilizes itself to meet the perceived threat: Muscles become tense, breathing is faster, and the heart beats more rapidly.”[1] The secular view is purely physical, saying that it is simply an anticipatory fear of social situations. They distinguish fear and anxiety by saying that “Fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of future threat.”[2]

The treatment of social anxiety normally takes the form of one of two separate forms. The first is the use of psychiatric medications. These are usually similar to the ones used for depression, and they vary in their effectiveness at curbing symptoms from mildly successful to somewhat moderately successful. The second form of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. This will often take the form of exposure therapy or group therapy. It is also quite common for there to be a mixture of the two approaches in an attempt to cover the weaknesses of each approach. [3] In order for someone to be diagnosed with Social Anxiety they must have manifested symptoms for 6 months or longer.

 

II. History

Social Anxiety has existed for a very long time, with even general anxiety being directly addressed by both Jesus and Paul. The idea of social anxiety may have originated Hippocrates as early as 400 B.C. However, it wasn’t until 1968 in the DSM-II that Social Anxiety was specifically mentioned and defined. It was here that it was first classified, and the idea of it has only become more prevalent since.

III. Evidence of the Problem

Social Anxiety’s main theme is an avoidance of stressful social interactions. “The feared situation is most often avoided altogether or else it is endured with marked discomfort or dread.”[4] This often leads to isolation, where the person will distance themselves from their family or friends. Social Anxiety also manifests itself through a fear of judgement from others. It is a “fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others.[5]

The person struggling with this will often fear that they will be rejected, unloved, or perceived as annoying, lame, stupid, weird, rude, boring, or a whole host of other undesirable outcomes.

IV. Etiology

While there is no known medical condition that causes Social Anxiety, there are several factors that may contribute to it. These factors are things such as abuse, internalization of fears, an unhealthy level of comparison of oneself to people one may see as ideal, and the perceived need to become the ideal form of oneself. Spiritually, Social Anxiety comes from a lack of trust in God, a propensity to not leave the worries of one’s life in the hands of God through faith and prayer. It may also come from valuing oneself as the most important thing, thus leading to that value having ultimate control over emotions and actions. [6]

Some physical symptoms of this issue are the avoidance of social situations, tremors, increased heart rate, tenseness, perspiration, and, in some more extreme cases, panic attacks. [7] Spiritual symptoms include a lack of trust in God, doubt in His promises to give  all that is needed, and a view of God’s love and provisions as not enough to satisfy social needs.

 

V. Examining the Heart

The possible heart themes behind Social Anxiety are a desire for control and a fear of man. The person with Social Anxiety will desire for the people in their lives to see them as they wish to be seen, of value, enjoyable to be around, and acceptable in their preferred social situations. Some idols that go along with this are a love of self, pride, and a love of comfort.

VI. Biblical Solutions 

In his Christian Counselor’s Manual, Jay Adams says “If the counselee’s fear fundamentally is a fear of men, then the answer lies in encouraging him to engage in loving ministry, in which he may give of himself to others. Granted, more may be involved, but ultimately, fear will vanish only when he has learned to live the life of loving concern for his neighbor.”[8] Adams also states that a constant and continuous prayer life will lead to peace. [9] Others mention that it is most important that one does not value himself primarily, as that will lead to worry. Valuing Christ first and other people before oneself will take the focus off of oneself, helping to get rid of anxiety. [10]

Recommended Books

“When People are Big and God is Small” by Edward T. Welch

“Overcoming Anxiety: Relief for Worried People” by David Powlison

“Anxiety Attacked: Applying Scripture to the Cares of the Soul” by John MacArthur

Recommended Homework Resources

“A Christian Growth and Discipleship Manual: A Homework Manual for Biblical Living Volume 3” by Wayne A. Mack and Wayne Erick Johnston

“For Further Thought” sections in “When People are Big and God is Small” by Edward T. Welch

 

 

 

[1] Gary R. VadenBos, APA Dictionary of Psychology (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2015), 66.

[2] David J. Kupper et al., DSM-V (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013), 189.

[3] Vladin Staracevic, Anxiety Disorders in Adults: A Clinical Guide (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010), 183.

[4] VadenBos, 999.

[5] Kupper et al, 202.

[6] Robert D. Jones, “Getting to the Heart of Your Worry,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 17, no. 3 (Spring 1999), 22.

 

[7] James Morrison, DSM-IV Made Easy (New York, NY: The Guilford Publications, 1995), 262.

[8] Adams, 417.

[9]  Jay E. Adams, The Practical Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling (Heckettstown, NJ: Timeless Texts, 2003), 190-191.

[10] Jones, 22.

Wayne Mack

By Oksana Zherebnenko

 

I. Known For

Wayne Mack has been identified as a seminal contributor to the Biblical Counseling movement. He studied and taught biblical counseling and Christian living in numerous universities. Mack has served on the board of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and on the board of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (FIRE). Mack has spoken at various counseling seminars and has also helped establish biblical counseling programs in the United States and in South Africa.

II. Biography

Wayne Mack was born on June 7, 1935. His hometown is Carlisle, Pennsylvania but he lives in Pretoria, South Africa for the majority of the year with his wife, Carol (@WayneMack, Facebook, April 30, 2019). Wayne married Carol in 1957 and they have four adult children and thirteen grandchildren [1].

Wayne Mack received a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College. He then received a Master’s of Divinity (MDiv) from Philadelphia Seminary and a Doctorate of Ministry (D.Min) from Westminster Theological Seminary.  He has studied psychology at LaSalle University. He also studied counseling, theology and the church at Eastern Baptist Seminary, and theology at Wheaton graduate school and Trinity Theological Seminary [1].

III. Theological views

Wayne Mack is a promoter of nouthetic counseling. Within nouthetic counseling there are three main ideas: 1) Scripture is necessary when confronting a counselee about their problems 2) Counseling is always done to the benefit of the counselee and 3) The counselee is striving to change in order to be more like Christ, who is the standard [2]. Wayne Mack is marked by a dedication to the Word of God and all of his work is immersed in Scripture [3]. Mack does not write as a philosopher who explains theological epistemology, but instead he teaches as a pastor would, explaining how to help people according to a biblical framework [4].

IV. Works/Publications

Wayne Mack has written 27 books on biblical counseling and Christian living.  His books include Strengthening Your Marriage, Homework Manual for Biblical Living, Anger and Stress Management God’s Way, and Humility: A Forgotten Virtue. His article entries have been published in Reformation Today, The Journal of Pastoral Counseling, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and The Master’s Journal. He has a number of audio and video messages on counseling and Christian living distributed by Nouthetic Media [5].

V. Influence on Biblical Counseling

Wayne Mack has taught college and graduate school courses in biblical counseling at various bible colleges and seminaries. He has conducted biblical counseling seminars and conferences all over the world. Wayne and his wife moved to Pretoria, South Africa to teach biblical counseling to pastors. Wayne Mack supervised the development of the Master of Arts Biblical Counseling program at The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. He is a charter member of ACBC and he helped found ACBC Africa. He served on the board of FIRE and is on the Board of Directors of Publicaciones Faro de Gracia. He works with Strengthening Ministries Training Institute to distribute books, audio and video tapes on counseling to churches and Christians all around the world [1].

VI. Bibliography

“About Dr. Wayne Mack,” Strengthening Ministries International, accessed April 28,

2019, http://www.mackministries.org/docs/about.shtml.

“About Wayne Mack,” Nouthetic Media, accessed April 28, 2019,

https://noutheticmedia.com/about-wayne-mack/.

Adams, Jay E. “What is ‘Nouthetic’ Counseling,” Institute for Nouthetic Studies,

accessed April 28, 2019,

http://www.nouthetic.org/about-ins/what-is-nouthetic-counseling.

Lambert, Heath. 2011. The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (Foreword by

 David Powlison). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=shib&db=nlebk&

AN=1140468&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

“What others have to say about Strengthening Ministries,” Strengthening Ministries

International, accessed April 28, 2019,

http://www.mackministries.org/docs/endorsements.shtml.

  1. Strengthening Ministries International, “About Dr. Wayne Mack”
  2. Institute for Nouthetic Counseling, “What is ‘Nouthetic’ Counseling”
  3. Strengthening Ministries International, “What other have to say about Strengthening Ministries”
  4. Lambert, The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams, Ch. 4.
  5. Nouthetic Media, “About Wayne Mack”