Living with Social Anxiety
What is Social Anxiety?
Social Anxiety is a type of anxiety that causes immense fear in social settings. This means having trouble doing something as simple as carrying out a conversation or attending social gatherings. According to an article on mayoclinic.org; Social anxiety develops in children who experience bullying, humiliation, rejection or even grow up with controlling and restrictive guardians/parents. Social Anxiety, in essence, can be caused by excessive social isolation, other mental illnesses and addictions. Social Anxiety by itself is a mental health condition but if intensified could turn into a disorder. It does not go away without treatment however does tend to lessen with age in most cases. Just doing everyday things in front of others could turn into a nightmare for someone with social anxiety. Having low self-esteem does tend to put you at risk of later social anxiety however anxiety generally does make you feel worse about yourself.
I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built up a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth.~Daphne du Maurier
What does Social Anxiety Look like?
Physically Social Anxiety looks like this:
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Rigid Body Posture
- Little Eye Contact
- Nausea or sickness to the stomach
- Speaking with a very soft voice
- Shaking or Trembling
Mentally Social Anxiety looks like this:
- Fear of offending someone
- Fear of being embarrassed
- Fear of being the centre of attention
- Fear of being judged
Some Social Anxiety triggers:
1.Talking to strangers
2.Speaking in public
4.Making eye contact
6.Using public restrooms
7.Going to parties
8.Eating in front of other people
9.Going to school or work
11.Being watched while doing something
What is it like living with Social Anxiety?
Social Anxiety similar to other mental illnesses results in the individual being unable to do some basic day to day tasks that are termed normal for most people.
There are all watching my every move. They are plotting and planning against me. Whispering about me.
It’s that crippling fear of not wanting to answer a question in class even if you know the answer. Why? So to avoid being embarrassed. Individuals with social anxiety hate drawing attention to themselves. They'd rather sink into the background of a well-written action movie than get up and save the day. Every pair of eyes that comes before them feels as if it's burning into them, staring and ridiculing them. They feel as if everybody is watching them and silently judging them. Individuals with Social anxiety restrict themselves from leaving their homes and when they do they prefer being in extremely less crowded areas.
I am a nuisance. I am slowing down everybody else. Everybody would be happier if I wasn’t there.
Presentations and group work activities stress them out further. Since Social Anxiety revolves around the Anxiety that is triggered upon human interaction, the more they are surrounded by people the more uncomfortable they feel. They constantly feel as if they are hindering the progress of others and taking up too much space. Individuals with Social Anxiety feel very out of place in social gatherings constantly thinking of whether they fit in or not. They keep thinking of what they could say to add to conversations or jokes but don’t always end up mustering enough courage to do so. This results in their poor social skills. They keep thinking they don't belong, that they don’t have a right to engage in a group setting because their company is not wanted.
Do they really like me or is it all a lie?
People with Social Anxiety also have a hard time making connections. They keep doubting their relationships and are always fearing abandonment. Should they find themselves falling in love they constantly fear burdening their partner or being too much. Will they leave if I change? Will they start to hate me when they finally realize what I’m actually like? Having to keep up with such negative thoughts on a daily basis is not something they enjoy, however, they feel conditioned to always assume the worst so as to prepare themselves for every possible outcome. In reality, they only prepare themselves for the worst never the best. It is extremely hard for someone with Social Anxiety to believe someone likes them for who they are. Their damaged self-esteem always tells them that they are too hard to love and have an unimaginable amount of flaws that no one wants to deal with. Their trust issues tend to get in the way of their relationships but on the other hand, they themselves do try their ultimate best to not lose the trust of their partner. They constantly require reassurance and have a hard time communicating their feelings to someone they love for fear of damaging their image or losing respect in the eyes of their partner.
I probably got off dumb luck. There is no way I deserve this.
People with Social Anxiety have a hard time appreciating their awards and accomplishments. They constantly feel as if they don’t deserve the recognition they get. They call it basic luck every time they succeed and punish themselves when they don’t. Some even come across as perfectionists, constantly scolding themselves for not working hard enough. Not being good enough. Not deserving of any sort of reward. They feel the need to check and double-check their work even after they have submitted it. On other occasions, they end up procrastinating the work until the last minute then suffer tremendously while trying to make the deadline. Any skill they end up learning they tend to not hold at a value. Everybody can do this. It is nothing special. I’m not even that good. They have a hard time validating their talents because they constantly keep comparing themselves to those better at it than they are. As a result, they term their skill set as worthless no matter how hard they work or keep working on it.
All-in-all, It’s hard living with Social Anxiety. The same day to day task ends up messy once someone is watching us. It is important to understand that if someone with social anxiety constantly asks for reassurance it doesn't mean they doubt the other person it's just that that is what their brain is telling them all the time. I’m most probably going to write another article on how you can support and love someone with social anxiety next and as to how to cope with social anxiety on your own as well.
Thank you for Reading!