The Anxiety of Social Anxiety

It’s a Friday night and it has been one heck of a week so me and my girlfriends are ready for the usual pizza and movie night in my college apartment with some much needed mani pedis and facemasks. Every week someone new calls to order that heaven in a box and hands over their money to the delivery man. This week it was my turn and I knew this was coming since last weekend. I started to have a warm rush of nerves come over my body, my hands balmy, my pores on my face beginning to sweat, my heart beat pounding faster as the seconds ticked away so, I told the girls I'll be right back, I'm going to go into my room to order where it is quiet. As they all stare at me in confusion. I sit down at my desk as these questions role through my head. What if I stutter?

What if I order the wrong thing?

As the other end of the phone picked up my body tensed. The women said something about their specials and when I realized there was a silence I had missed my shot at being a normal person and ordering. I don't let my mistake show even though this happened and I order the pizza, it will be here in 20 minutes. I hang up and my brain begins to race.

Why did you create an awkward silence ?

OMG what was the total ?

Why can't I just be normal?

Now another person thinks I'm awkward. Twenty minutes pass and I get the call that the pizza is here. Then the same process begins again, that warm rush, balmy hands, sweat on my face, and my heart racing. Now I get see someone face to face, what will they think of me? First impressions even to a stranger are important.

What if the lady on the other end of the phone told him I was acting strange and to be aware I may be crazy?

After I pay I return to my apartment and eat my weight in pizza and say to myself it's a good thing that's over.

 

 

If you haven't noticed by now through that story I may have a slight social anxiety problem. But this is just one situation to the many possible outcomes everyday when having social anxiety.

 

Social anxiety is defined as the fear of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people in social situations.

 

Social anxiety is the third largest mental health care problem in the world today. It affects about 7% of the total population and there is a 13% chance of developing it in your lifetime.

 

People with social anxiety are many times seen by others as very shy, quiet, backwards, withdrawn, inhibited, unfriendly, nervous, and disinterested. Also people with social anxiety want to make friends, be included in groups, and be involved and engaged in social interactions but by having social anxiety it prevents them from doing these things.

 

People with social anxiety usually express distress in the following situations:

  • Being introduced to other people

  • Being teased or criticized

  • Being the center of attention

  • Being watched or observed while doing something

  • Having to say something in formal or public situations

  • Meeting people in authority

  • Feeling insecure and out of place in social situations

  • Embarrassing easily

  • Meeting other people's eyes

  • Being in public

 

And the list goes on for every individual…

 

Social anxiety is a very emotional experience and it usually takes a heavy toll on the individual physically and mentally. There are different levels of social anxiety depending on the person's experiences, environment, genetics, etc. Some emotional signs of social anxiety are:

 

Anxiety, high levels of fear, nervousness, automatic negative emotional cycles, racing heart, blushing, excessive sweating, dry mouth and throat, trembling, and muscle twitches.

 

People who experience social anxiety feel as if they are trapped from being who they really are because of this mask their mentality bestows upon them. People with social anxiety typically know that the things they are experiencing are irrational and do not make any sense. However, thoughts and feelings of anxiety persist and are chronic.

 

On the bright side of things social anxiety is a fully treatable condition! However, it can only be treated with cognitive behavior therapy.  Research has shown after the completion of  CBT people with social anxiety have shown noticeable changes. This therapy had changed people's thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviors. This is because social anxiety resides in connections in your brain cells. Therefore, you must work actively to reconnect those cells on their right path.

 

My story:

I first knew I had social anxiety when I was very young, probably in elementary school. I remember having the same types of symptoms as I do now in my young adult life. I’ve realized that as I’ve grown older the situations in which I had anxiety changed because my environment changed. Living with social anxiety is very much a challenge everyday. It's not something that I get to choose when it happens, it's uncontrollable and typically it happens with any situation outside of when I'm alone. Over time, I have developed my own coping mechanisms for these situations and every situation has its own mechanism. See where it can get complicated?

Having this condition has pushed me outside of my comfort zones. Though it is not always in a bad way. It has opened doors for me by making me taking chances even when I was uncomfortable, for instance like joining a sorority and being a mentor for the community. Some situations I deal with right now as a college student are as small as walking by people to get to class and as large as joining and being active in organizations. Another major point is I think it's sometimes hard for my friends because they will want to hangout with me and do things that are normally comfortable for people that do not have social anxiety which makes our bond harder to keep strong. But thankfully the friends I do have know that I actively try to be optimistic and strong to gain new experiences and not let this condition hinder me from living a full life. But having this condition makes things like attending social events with other groups terrifying which I encounter fairly often by being involved in five organizations.

Social anxiety hinders me from having social connections such as friendships, in my major, and even in professional work. However I know that the things I need to do to be successful in life majorly involve connections, therefore I must keep pushing outside that little voice that says no you're okay alone. I notice now that even if I know someone as a friend if they ask to have lunch or coffee with me my brain says woah stay on the computer and surf the internet looking at nothing important instead of going to sit with a real person that matters and cares about you and is trying to make connections. It's very frustrating because I feel like I never have the final decision on what I'm allowed to do, almost like I'm trapped inside my own body. However, I just continue to try to push forward and actively use the personal counseling center to help in these crazy busy college times. And it helps that I'm a psychology major too!

 

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