At times, I have imagined how wonderful it would be to have self-confidence, my constant anxiety wards me off from it. When I run into someone I used to know, I purposely try to change my course or simply hide, just to avoid a conversation. I fear and I constantly assume that I am a rude person. Whenever I am meeting new people for the first time, I never initiate a conversation and would purposely try to be ‘busy’ in work, when I am really not. I pretend to talk on phone when I enter metro, it seems to calm me down- I would do anything that avoids me conversing with someone. Whenever I go out alone for lunch or a movie, I make sure to carry my laptop with me so that people don’t think I am a miserable person, living life all alone. Getting ready to go out, feels getting ready for battle.
This is what life looks like every day from the perspective of a person suffering from social anxiety. It is not mere nervousness or shyness, it is a legit mental disorder in which the brain resorts to nervous malfunction and can result in panic attacks.
Social anxiety, or social phobia, is marked by extreme self-consciousness, avoidance and physical symptoms when faced with an uncomfortable social situation. We all get jitters from time to time, but social anxiety is on a whole different level. It is an emotion characterized by a discomfort or a fear when a person is in a social interaction that involves a concern of being judged or evaluated by others. It is typically characterized by an intense fear of what others are thinking about them, specifically fear of embarrassment or humiliation, criticism, or rejection, which results in the individual feeling insecure and not good enough for other people.
Unlike some other psychological problems, social anxiety is not well understood by the general public or by medical and mental health care professionals, such as doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, social workers, and counselors. In fact, people with social anxiety are misdiagnosed almost 90% of the time. Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent of mental illnesses, affecting almost 18% of the world’s population.
It is difficult to understand social anxiety, as it is usually confused with the person being an introvert. Being plagued by the disorder, the person starts believing that maybe their thoughts are irrational and would invite rebukes of others, which they try really hard to avoid. Anxiety disorders involve more than just temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. These feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, academics or social functioning.
Physical symptoms often accompanying social anxiety disorder include excessive blushing, excess sweating, trembling, palpitations and nausea. Stammering may be present, along with rapid speech. Panic attacks can also occur under intense fear and discomfort. Some people may use alcohol or other drugs to reduce fears and inhibitions at social events. It is common for sufferers of social phobia to self-medicate in this fashion, especially if they are undiagnosed, untreated, or both; this can lead to alcoholism, eating disorders or other kinds of substance abuse.
Self-confidence isn’t something that comes easy to people suffering from it. After all heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing, are not all bad, aren’t they?
Identifying social anxiety to be problem is the first major step, and they would need all the courage and encouragement to seek that treatment which just puts them ‘out there’ in front of everyone.
It is difficult for an anxious person to perform daily tasks as discussed above. It is important to understand that though they don’t want to be alone, they are forced to because of their anxiousness. They are trapped in a shell, they want to get out of.
In the end, there’s a lot to them, more than their silence, only if we are patient enough and helpful to wait for them to blossom into a beautiful being. A being oblivious to others, but no longer to self.