Psychologist (518) 372-0166

Q&A- Questions About Social Anxiety

Susan S. Woods, Ph.D.question and answer with Dr. Susan S. Woods

Social Anxiety

Q: I have trouble making eye contact with other people. Why is that and what can I do about it?

A: Problems making eye contact can be a form of social anxiety, shyness for example because people fear that making eye contact with someone may lead to an uncomfortable conversation where they may not know what to say. Poor eye contact may also be related to Attention Deficit Disorder or Asperger Spectrum Disorders.

Making good eye contact is important because it is one of the basic ways humans have to reassure others that we are listening or paying attention to them. Avoiding eye contact with someone when they are speaking directly to you is interpreted as lacking empathy or even rudeness.

New studies by Dr. Ludwig Maximilian and Dr. Nadine Lehman suggest that our ability to make eye contact is located in the cerebellum of the brain which literally allows us to keep our “eye on the ball”, that is, making eye contact, playing certain sports like baseball or hunting etc. are primal brain functions which allow us to literally survive and socially connect with others in meaningful ways.

Their studies suggest that practicing certain sports or finding a comfortable other person to make eye contact with can strengthen the cerebellum and make it easier to perform these basic human functions.

Practice will also provide a desensitizing effect for those who are shy.

Susan S. Woods, Ph.D.

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