It’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to everyone and it is a big deal! Social anxiety can take over the life of the person that is affected by it. Social anxiety is nothing like the normal fear that people usually feel, instead it has a crippling effect and small everyday situations can seem terrifying. For a socially anxious person every single little detail counts. It doesn’t matter whether people understand how we feel or not because at the end of the day we will always be worried about something or the other.
Sometimes we look completely calm on the outside like we’re totally fine with everything that’s going on when in reality we’ve already devised plans to run away to Finland in our heads. Even when we pretend like we’re totally calm little details that most people usually don’t even seem to notice can drive us crazy on the inside. Our minds are always working on overdrive and we’re always coming up with frightening scenarios in our head about all the things that could possibly go wrong. So the next time you see us sitting quietly in a corner looking like we’re intensely thinking of something we’re probably freaking out about what would happen if there was a zombie apocalypse or even worse if a stranger talked to us.
Meeting new people can be one of the scariest things ever for us. We feel trapped, uncomfortable and suffocated. Even worse than being introduced to new people is being alone with new people, like when a friend ditches you with someone they think you have “lots in common with.” We have no idea how to start conversations and by the time we’re done thinking of a topic to mention something about it has probably been like five minutes and there’s already an awkward silence. We don’t mean to make people uncomfortable but sometimes we’re just shy and don’t know what to say. For this reason it’s really hard for us to make new friends because we can never really interact with anyone. We always have our guards up and definitely have trust issues. This can sometimes (almost always) make it difficult to talk to someone you’re attracted to and it’s hard to even think about dating someone and sometimes it feels like you’ll never trust someone enough to picture yourself being in a relationship with them. The advantage to this however is that we have a small group of friends we’re insanely close to and really comfortable around. These friends are probably a little shy and awkward like us but they’re loyal, down-to-earth and most importantly they get us.
A really cool thing about having social anxiety is that soon you learn to profile people and you can almost accurately guess their personality type. This really helps because it makes it easier for you to find someone you can better relate to and you can know who is approachable and who you should definitely avoid. Profiling people is a skill we eventually pick up- it gets better over time. Soon you know your crowd and the people you would most likely have things in common with.
So this next one is going to sound crazy to people who don’t have social anxiety but talking on the phone can be really terrifying. Picking up the phone and talking to someone you don’t know or calling unfamiliar people can be really scary. It’s almost like a phobia. It’s really difficult to explain this one but there’s something about talking on the phone that gives us chills. Maybe it’s because we can’t really tell what the other person is thinking because we can’t see them or maybe it’s just that we find it hard to verbalize our thoughts well because anxiety can really mess with your train of thought.
Change is frightening and it is very difficult for us to tolerate anything being different. Ironically, for me, change in general is perfectly fine and I believe the world does need to change a lot if we want the human race to not go extinct in a few hundred years but when it comes to little changes like someone moving something it can be really irritating. It’s like an itch in your brain that you just can’t scratch that won’t go away until everything goes back to normal.
Being picked on or even mentioned by others especially in class can give us mild panic attacks. We do not like attention to a point where we will keep information to ourselves even if we know we’re right like when a teacher asks the class a question we won’t answer even if we have the correct answer.
The sad part is that people constantly question your behavior and since most people with social anxiety already have low self-esteem issues it can get very difficult. We are kind of perfectionists as it is because we need things to be perfect so that the aftermath isn’t as catastrophic as we imagine it will be. Bullies tend to have a field day making our lives more difficult than it already is because they know we’ll squirm and we probably won’t fight back. Plus, we’re touchy about little things like our weight, appearance, clothing etc. People have a hard time understanding how we feel because they can’t empathize with something they’ve never experienced. They look at us differently- we’re either invisible to them or we’re the weird kids who can’t socialize. Sometimes we just want to be ‘normal’ and hope as an adult we can just be like everyone else and not always crippled by anxiety. Sometimes it seems like it would be so much easier to just be someone else. People think we’re really sensitive but we can’t help it because we’re always at the edge of our seats waiting for something to go wrong like it always does.
The library rules. It’s the safest place in school because it’s like there’s an anti-bully/anti-stupid spell on it. Empty libraries are amazing because you get to be alone for a while and you stop thinking so much as you get lost in a book. Even if it is just for a short time you get to be free and unafraid. We love alone time and tend to be introverts.
We try to avoid all social gatherings and it doesn’t matter what we miss out on as long as we’re not forced to socialize. Taking pictures sucks because it makes us rethink our fashion choices, makeup up choices, hairstyle choices etc. Like I mentioned we’re sensitive… We are super uncomfortable being late and walking into a room that’s already full because that means the attention is on us and it makes us very awkward. We can’t talk in front crowds because it makes us literally nauseous.
I just want to thank Natasha for coming up with the idea to write about our social anxiety and for all the help on this post. I also want to say that having social anxiety is not the end of the world. Just because you find certain situations difficult and you find it hard to stop overthinking everything, doesn’t mean you can’t someday change and break free. When you find people who love and accept you for who you are you’ll understand that being different isn’t sad or pathetic, you’re unique and you should use your gifts and talents positively. Plus, don’t let anxiety scare you out of having fun because you might regret it later in life. Do what makes you happy and don’t listen to the negative things people have to say.
“Don’t fill your head with worries, there won’t be room for anything else!”
“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain” -Mark Twain
If you or someone you know is suffering from social anxiety or any other disorders please seek help. There are many professionals out there who can help including online therapists who you can talk to any time.
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