Is Japan Facing a Rise in Social Anxiety? Genetics and the Era of Extreme Shyness | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Is Japan Facing a Rise in Social Anxiety? Genetics and the Era of Extreme Shyness

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100 years from now, Japan could be one of the world’s “mysterious countries with introverted people who do not understand each other.

Japanese people are poor talkers and communicators. Many Japanese people have long been aware of this harsh assessment.

This low level of ability is especially noticeable when meeting someone for the first time. While most foreigners are able to respond openly to strangers, the opposite is true for shy Japanese. Many Japanese are not so much friendly as nervous and unable to speak as they would like.

Many Japanese are unable to get a single word out when dealing with people they do not know well.

Here is an interesting survey result.

According to an international comparative survey of attitudes toward in-flight communication conducted by Expedia Japan in 2007 (targeting 18,237 men and women from 23 countries who had flown and stayed at a hotel within a year), the percentage of respondents who said they would talk to a stranger in the next seat on an in-flight flight was higher than the percentage of those who said they would not. The percentage of those who said they would talk to a stranger sitting next to them on an airplane was the lowest among Japanese, at only 15%, compared to 60% for Indians, who ranked first.

Furthermore, only one in four Australians (50%) said they would help a stranger put his or her luggage in the overhead bin, while only 24% of Japanese said they would do the same.

The percentage of Japanese who said they would talk to a stranger sitting next to them on an airplane was the lowest, at 15%, compared to 60% for Indians (Expedia Japan April ’19 survey, 18237 respondents/ Internet research).

For example, when they see someone in trouble on the street, they cannot speak to them; when they receive a kindness from a stranger, they cannot say thank you; and even when they live in the same apartment building, they cannot greet someone they do not know well.

They cannot say “Gochisoso sama desu” (thank you for the meal) when leaving a restaurant. …… I am sure that many of you can think of such experiences in your daily life, even if you are not in the special space of an in-flight flight.

Sadly, this may be the reality of “Japan,” a country known for its shyness.

However, according to Tatsushi Kawashima, a licensed psychologist who leads communication courses, while many Japanese are aware of their shyness, very few are aware of the danger.

The words ‘diversity’ and ‘diversity’ that we have heard so many times over the years seem to allow anything to happen,” he said.

For example, even if someone doesn’t attend a company drinking party, “people are people and I am me. In this age of diversity, where individuality should be respected, there is an atmosphere in which others are not allowed to express their opinions.

In my corporate training sessions, I sometimes ask people to “try talking to the person next to them,” but many people show resistance.

Those who are forced to take the training because they are told to by the company have a sense of being “forced” to do so (laughs). I think they really feel that they should only talk with people they want to talk with, and that forcing them to greet and talk with people they do not want to talk with is too much of a step.

Moreover, today, work is done by e-mail, ordering and paying at restaurants is done on tablets, and shopping is done over the Internet. Furthermore, opportunities to interact with others have been drastically reduced after the COVID-19 crisis. Even so, people find that there are no obstacles to their daily lives, and the need to interact with others itself is fading.

In a sense, one might say that we live in an age in which it is easier for shy people to live.

Now that shopping is possible with a single smartphone, conversations with store clerks are no longer necessary. As people spend more and more time alone because they feel “at ease being alone,” they will never develop their social skills (PHOTO: AFLO).

This is no way to have a sense of crisis.

However, by increasing opportunities for conversation with others and acquiring social skills, one can develop a sense of security that they can do it, and if they experience more successes, they should gradually become less anxious about talking to others.

In Japan, however, many parents are “communicators” who are not good communicators, so they cannot teach their children how to greet people or how to converse with them.

I believe that communication education should be provided at the company, but there is no such system in Japan.

What will happen to “Japan, a nation of shy people” in the future? Mr. Kawashima sounds the alarm.

I believe that the number of isolated people will increase, that there will be only “communicable diseases,” that people will become more aggressive, and that crime will increase.

Research has shown that when people feel isolated, they are more likely to commit crimes. When people have good relationships with others, they have something to protect, so crime is less likely to occur. This is an extreme example, but if you compare an apartment where all residents greet each other cheerfully with an apartment where greetings are not associated with each other, don’t you think that the crime rate occurring in the former is lower than that in the latter?

Personally, I fear that if this trend continues, the number of crimes in Japan will only increase. I even have a feeling that 100 years from now, Japan will be described by other countries as “a strange country full of introverted people who don’t know what they are talking about.

Japanese are genetically predisposed to anxiety.

Why are so many Japanese people shy?

In fact, there is a genetic factor, and Japanese people are naturally prone to anxiety.

There is a gene called “serotonin transporter” that regulates the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter essential for mental stability. A study conducted in the U.S. compared the Japanese and Americans in terms of this gene, and found that the Japanese have a higher percentage of the S gene, which tends to make people anxious, nervous, and pessimistic, and a lower percentage of the L gene, which tends to make people more optimistic and positive.

If the degree of shyness is so strong that it interferes with daily life, it is possible that it is not a personality problem but a neurological disorder such as “anthropophobia” (*1) or “social anxiety” (*2), but it has been said that “anthropophobia” is actually a disorder unique to Japanese.

Many Japanese people think that they should not bother others, and it has long been believed that this tendency, which is peculiar to the Japanese, is a cause of interpersonal anxiety.

The world-famous “Morita therapy” is said to be the world’s first treatment for interpersonal fear, developed by a psychotherapist named Shoma Morita.

Later, it was discovered that symptoms of interpersonal phobia are similar to those of any race, and nowadays it is often treated as a social anxiety disorder.

Although these neuroses are said to be more likely to occur during adolescence, many parents fail to recognize their children’s illnesses and visit medical institutions or counselors after they become adults. Delayed consultation may exacerbate the symptoms.

If your child is very shy, you may want to consider consulting a specialist.

We need to be aware of the crisis that if we don’t do something, we will end up with only employees with communicable diseases.

Kawashima says that those who feel even a slight sense of crisis about the future of our shy nation should first create an environment that increases opportunities for conversation in their daily lives.

He says, “If the I think it is necessary for the top management of a company to understand the danger of having only employees with communicable diseases if things continue as they are. If the top management has a sense of crisis, they can make an effort to consciously create time for small talk within the company.

Some companies prohibit chatting during work hours, but fostering such a culture is only a negative for the mental health of employees.

At home, it is a good idea to make the most of dinner time. Even if you are busy, set a time when the whole family can gather around the dinner table together. During this time, turn off the TV and don’t put your smartphone nearby. Then have the children report what happened that day. If we continue this “30-minute report a day,” we will definitely see an increase in family conversations. In fact, our family is practicing it.

He also encourages those who live in apartments where “residents don’t greet each other” to have the courage to be the “first penguin.

He said, “At first, they may not respond well, but in their heart of hearts, they may be glad that you called out to them.

No one feels bad about being greeted. As you continue, it may become commonplace to greet about 3 out of 10 people, and a culture of greeting may be created in your condominium. I think we can change that by having someone be the first penguin.”

Tatsushi Kawashima is a certified psychologist and mental health worker. Born in Tottori Prefecture in 1981. He majored in contemporary psychology at Mejiro University’s Graduate School of Psychology. In 2006, he established Direct Communication Inc. He teaches communication courses mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Author of “How can I have a good chat after all” (Sanmark Publishing Co., Ltd.).

1_A type of neurosis in which a person tries to fear or avoid interpersonal situations due to unbearable anxiety or tension. (Encyclopedia of Psychiatry 2011)

2_The core of this psychosis is a concern for the eyes of others in a relatively small group, and the patient usually avoids social situations. It is most prevalent in adolescence. (International Criteria for Diseases ICD-10)

  • Interview and text by Keiko Tsuji

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