What is it like to live in constant fear of being around people?
All day, every day, life is like this.
Fear. Apprehension. Avoidance. Embarrassment about what you said. Fear that you said something wrong.
Worry about others’ disapproval. Scared of not fitting in. Afraid to enter a conversation, afraid you’ll have nothing to say.
This is the daily torment of living with social anxiety.
Social anxiety is a disorder characterised by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with social anxiety have a persistent, intense fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed by their own actions. They can worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation. Many recognise their fears are irrational but feel unable to overcome it and often experience low self-esteem and depression.
Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common anxiety disorders that often begins in childhood or adolescence and while it feels crippling, it can be treated.
What is social anxiety like?
A man finds it difficult to walk down the street because he feels like people are watching him. Worse, he may run into a person he knows and be forced to say hello. He keeps his eyes away from the gaze of others and hopes he won’t have to talk to anyone.
A woman avoids standing in line at the grocery store because she’s afraid everyone is looking at her. She knows that it’s not true, but she can’t shake the feeling. She tries to smile but feels awkward and is sure she is making a fool of herself.
Another woman agonises in front of her phone. She’s afraid to call about a mistake on her electricity bill because she’s worried she’ll be ‘putting someone out’. She finally calls but once the conversation is over, she sits and ruminates for hours about what she said, her tone of voice and what the other person is thinking about her.
A student won’t attend her university class on the first day because she is afraid the lecturer might ask her to introduce herself. Just thinking about speaking to a room full of strangers makes her feel sick. She can’t sleep the night before. The anxiety is too much, so she skips the class.
A teen wants to go to his school formal and other social events. He is very lonely, but he never goes out because he feels he’s always been ‘different’, the odd one out. Will he know what to say? Will they stare at him? So, he never goes anywhere. It’s just easier to avoid social situations. But this makes the anxiety worse.
There is a better life for all people with social anxiety. Without treatment, social anxiety is a torturous emotional problem. With effective treatment, it can be overcome. The research is clear that cognitive-behavioural therapy is highly successful in the treatment of social anxiety. Individual therapy is helpful, but most effective is completion of a CBT therapy group which provides methods, techniques and strategies that all combine to lessen anxiety and make the world a much more enjoyable place.
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