What’s it like to have social anxiety disorder?

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    I’m a 25 year old and suffer of social anxiety disorder as well. Even though it’s gotten better over the years, it still sucks very much to have to suffer with this. It’s a very narcissistic disorder if you think about it, because it constantly revolves around “you.”

    What should I say if someone approaches me and says this? What will they think if I do that? Do they hate me, are they making fun of me in their head, am I being too quiet, am I saying something dumb, do they care to listen if I even dreadfully try to speak… and so on.

    You are constantly just questioning everything, over-thinking everything, even when you don’t know you are. It use to be worse when I was in grade school, because at that time I was a voluntary mute. I never really spoke a word to anyone. As the years went by I kept pushing myself to speak a little more. It got to a point that around high school, I said enough was enough…

    …I had just moved down to Texas from North Carolina and decided this would be a fresh start–a new beginning. No one down there knew me, so I could just be “me” and they would never question the fact that I had changed. Well the year started and lo and behold, I was still the same quiet guy in class. I mean I did speak out a little more and made a few friends, but still the anxiety was there and the constant thoughts continued to bombard me on a daily basis.

    The bad thing is that around this time I discovered alcohol! I would go down to Mexico, since it was literally minutes away, and drink myself away with “friends” and family. After graduating high school, I moved back to Carolina and continued this trend of drinking on the weekends and even started hitting up clubs and bars. I made so many “friends,” that I thought I was actually starting to become a little popular. I would arrive at parties and people would yell my name upon entering, it was pretty sweet. I was less conscious with alcohol (of course) and people liked me. BUT deep down inside, I knew all of his was just a facade since that was just drunk me… not at all real me. There were hints of me there, but a drunk person is definitely not themselves or obviously in any of their normal senses.

    For once in my life though, I felt so happy to have other people to hang out with. I continued this lifestyle for a couple of years and it led to some very terrible things.

    Firstly, around this time I was in college and due to the constant hanging out, drinking, and clubbing I started to fail all of my classes and soon enough stopped attending all together. I don’t mean to toot my own horn either, but I was pretty smart and applied myself all throughout grade school. My family knew I had a promising future, but because I yearned to finally socialize far more than anything else, I gave up on schooling and kept at it with clubbing.

    Secondly, I went from drinking on weekends, to drinking every single day! It got to a point that I had to literally drink to put myself to sleep at night. I would wake up and drink because I could not go on throughout my day without it in my system. I wanted to feel the buzz everywhere I was. If I wasn’t tipsy, I would experience angst. Yes, this means I was out in public drinking and even driving around tipsy; potentially placing others and myself in danger, but thankfully nothing ever happened. I would pour alcohol in coffee cups, to-go cups, and bottles to hide the fact.

    I still recall this one time very vividly when I went to a hospital with a friend because his manager had just had a baby. This manager knew me somewhat, so I figured I’d go in and congratulate her as well. I had a few too many coffee cups of alcohol on my way there and the whole thing was incredibly awkward. Somehow I failed at calculating how much to drink before arriving at the hospital. Getting the right “social buzz” required a very specific amount of drinks under a certain amount of time in order to avoid being drunk. Basically I aimed at drinking just enough to feel less anxious, but with alcohol it’s not easily calculable. It was bright as day outside, must of been noon, and my friend and his manager just stared at me in disgust. I was so ashamed. When I went home that day, it just got me thinking that what the hell was I doing. I was terribly upset and knew I had to stop this. So I did, I stopped cold-turkey that day and moved back in with my parents.

    I had dropped out of college and slowly over time these friends I had made, were entirely starting to get out of the picture. All they wanted to do was drink and party, and if I wasn’t going to do that then there was nothing we had in common to do together. I couldn’t even act myself with them anyways, unless I had a drink. So they weren’t truly my friends and I wasn’t truly popular. I was someone suffering of social anxiety and I had wrongfully fallen into the trap of alcoholism to “cure” myself.

    I still haven’t seen a psychiatrist, although I do want to and I would definitely recommend it to anyone that is suffering of this. Drinking is definitely not the way to go, because it will just ruin your life and you could also end up hurting others besides yourself.

    Today I just work hard at pushing myself out of my little box and comfort zone. It’s the best I can do for now and it does make a difference to just push yourself to speak up and stop the over-thinking. The world is not obviously revolving around me, or you with the social anxiety, and it all boils down to changing your mentality about that.

    I hope no one ever falls into the steps that I did, and if you or someone you know is facing similar problems PLEASE get some help. It’s not a bad thing to seek help, and it will lead to a healthier and happier life. I’m just waiting for my benefits to kick in at work, and I’m off to schedule my first psychiatric/therapy appointment. I’m glad to say that where I am today is actually the best I’ve ever been in terms of my SAD… but there is still space for further improvement.


    I am a 17 year-old sufferer of social anxiety disorder. I can’t express myself. I have no control over my thoughts and feelings when around people. I think that everyone is monitoring me for a flaw in my appearance or attitude (or just about anything I can think of about myself). Whether it’s my clothes, the way I walk; what I’m looking at; my facial expressions. I know logically that the possibility of every person I see looking out for those flaws are ridiculous; but in my mind, I can’t help but get the feeling that they are. It causes me a lot of stress and insecurity..

    School for me is a living nightmare. It’s where I experience the most anxiety and emotional pain of my day. It’s just a bunch of running away and hiding — hoping people don’t see you and make fun of you. I have this notion that everyone is against me and dislikes me as a human being — even some of my nicest friends I’m suspicious of. When I’m in school, I map out the quickest routes to my next classes. I had remembered over the first couple of days in school, where children are most scarce and where I can keep myself obscure from them. Any social contact at all with them would cause me to panic and worry uncontrollably. I can’t maintain conversation because I have this constant belief that he or she is looking out for anything about me to make fun of once I walk away. When class would end, I would go straight from the room I was in, take the nearest staircase directly downstairs to the first floor (I was on the second), go through that particular hall in which there were no if not slightly any kids at all, to the next staircase, back upstairs, and rush into my class. I did this same routine every day for most of my classes. I can’t stand to walk directly to my next class because that would require me to look at other children as I walk by. I’m afraid they might say something about me, or if I look at them the wrong way, shove them as they go by or step on their shoe, I’ll get into a confrontation.

    Even if there is one person walking by I panic just as much, yet trying to look the most casual I possibly can. But from one look at him I’m already convinced that he’s being critical of me, so I try to look comfortable and “normal” anyway. I put one hand in my pocket first so that makes me look comfortable, right? But then what about my face? Do I look nervous? Is my mouth open too wide? Do I look angry because of my stress? I decide to look down so he won’t see my face. But what if he looks at me and realizes that I’m scared and putting my head down because I don’t want him to see me? I then put my head up and look to the direction where he is not. If he’s looking left at me, I look right, and vice-versa. But what if I look silly looking in the same direction for all this time? I look straight ahead. But then I panic again and assume the cycle over and over until that person passes from my line of sight. This is why I can’t be in big crowds of loud obnoxious teenagers; it would drive me mad.

    During lunchtime, I’d go outside of the lunchroom and upstairs into the staircase and eat there. I would sit in the back staircase where less kids would come. I couldn’t stay in that cafeteria because of all the eyes and noise and the very fact that every person in that room had thoughts that I could not control; thoughts that could be about me. I can only remember a handful of times I stayed inside the cafeteria instead of rushing towards the staircase. While the noise would get louder each time more kids came in, I would get smaller and more and more scared as time went on while I was inside that cafeteria. I counted every minute inside there. Those dreadful 20 minutes of torture. But even inside the staircase I wasn’t safe from my anxiety. I would, once again, let my brain get the best of me. I thought, what if the kids come back here, see my poor, lonely self and start to make fun of me. Each time I heard a door open and footsteps I would assume it was a teenager, panic, and try to run away from the footsteps and into to a quieter place.

    This doesn’t just apply to school, though. At home, around my neighborhood, I can swear that the cashiers at my local store laugh and make fun of me every time I leave the store.


    Anywhere I go, where there are other people around, I can literally feel their presence. Because I think everyone is judging me, whether I know it or not, the pressure is unbearable. I get hot, sometimes sweaty depending on how loud or close the people are around me, and very fidgety. The only way I can escape this (while staying in the same place), is either eating or obscuring my face from everyone. There are reasons for this: Firstly, eating numbs the pain of social anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, the stress and anxiety is still there and I can feel it, it’s that eating distracts me from thinking fully about myself or other people, so the stress is cut in half. And secondly, hiding my face from others makes me believe that they don’t see me, and if they don’t see me, they won’t judge me.

    When two or more people are having a conversation, I immediately get the idea that they are talking about me. What makes it worse is their laughter. Their laughter exacerbates the feeling of their taunting me. My head starts to hurt and I look around a lot to make them think that I don’t hear them or that I know that they are talking about me. Sometimes they really are talking about me, so I never really know if they are or are not. This gives me another reason not to trust people, even the nicest of people, because of my anxiety. I’ve lost a lot of friends because of this, and some people do actually dislike me. But they don’t know about my problem and I’m afraid to tell them because my problem prevents me from doing so.

    When a person does make fun of me, it’s a crushing blow to my psyche. I literally feel dizzy, weak, sleepy, and even more depressed. I can barely stand on my own two feet because of how weak I feel. The only benefit to this is that the depression makes me apathetic to the things that would normally cause me anxiety. Most of those feelings digress for about an hour except for the depression (which lasts for most of the day).


    Because of this anxiety, I shut down all emotions. I look like a miserable slob walking down the street. It’s not something I do consciously, it’s involuntary and it’s caused me a lot of problems the past few years. Since I believe that everyone is looking at me and talking about me, I feel like I’m a showcase, and the physical emotions that I display are all part of the comedic show. I feel like every single movement of my face is a means to laugh at me. Whether it’s a modest smile or the ascension of a single eye brow, I feel so recorded. To stop this, I go emotionally neutral. I don’t smile or frown or laugh or look confused. I want to seem like a person to give 0 attention to. This is an ironic attempt at zeroing myself out in that everybody thinks I’m mad when I’m not (I’ve been told that a few times). And because of that I’m a laughing stock. Since going emotionally neutral has become more unconscious than conscious, I’m trying my best to look like a “happy” person now. I try to crack a soft smile now and then, but that only makes me feel more like a freak since I don’t really feel that way.

    I’m a people pleaser. I can’t stand to have somebody mad or upset with me even if I’m just palling around with a “friend”. If I say something that can be suggestively offensive, it will run through my head for days, maybe even weeks. I question my actions and ask myself whether or not that person’s feelings were hurt from what I said. Even if it’s completely logical that the person’s feelings were not hurt (for example, the person laughs after I say the thing that I thought was offensive), I refuse to think that way. I feel constantly sad and upset and angry at myself unless I talk to him/her again to reassure our friendship (“companionship” since I’m not really that close to anyone). Yet I never get around to talking to that person on my own because of my paranoia and nervousness. This is why I don’t talk to people or want friends.

    Social Awkwardness:

    Don’t be offended if one day I meet you and seem like a nice person, but the next day I meet you and seemingly treat you like dirt. It’s part of my anxiety: The first day I meet a person I know logically that their mind has no information about me. They haven’t a clue about my personality at all. So I force myself to act natural assuring myself with the fact that they haven’t received any information from any of their friends, about how weird, awkward, and shy I am. We might get along well and possibly become best friends for that first day. But the next day I meet you, I will ignore your presence entirely and not speak to you unless you confront me. I’m worried that when I come up to you and speak, I’ll only be confirming the lies and rumors you’ve heard about me since the last time we met, or the speculation you might have about how weird and socially awkward I am (even though on the day you first met me, you might have thought I was a cool and nice person). These are things I conjecture from my anxiety.

    I also can’t look people in the eye. Not only am I self-conscious of my personality, I’m also self-conscious of my face. I’m afraid of people thinking I’m ugly, and, again, if I don’t see them, they don’t see me. So I look away from them when they’re speaking even though I know they can still see my face.

    All I want in terms of my disorder is isolation and privacy; and for it to stay that way unless I’m feeling too lonely or, in rare cases, a bit “social”.

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    There are several symptoms of Anxiety Disorder. I have mentioned some of them below along with the Types of Anxiety Disorders

    Excessive worrying:

    Anything in extremes is avoidable, however, constant worrying is never helpful for the individual or whatever ot whoever you are worrying about.

    Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom

    Nothing has happened or is happening but the individual has this vague sense all the time.

    Panic Attacks

    The individual may have Panic attacks that are triggered by something subtle in their deep consciousness which would also lead to an increased heart rate, Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), Trembling or Sweating

    Having trouble sleeping

    Feeling weak or tired and generally fatigued is also another sign – it could be due to lack of sleep as people with anxiety disorders usually have trouble sleeping. This may also lead to an more than normal irritableness

    Avoiding Social Situations

    People with anxiety disorder usually avoid going to parties or groups. It is possible that they have self-worth issues and are very self -conscious

    Trouble Concentrating:

    They usually cannot think about anything other than the present worry as a result they have trouble concentrating and lag behind in whatever tasks that they have to complete. It also makes them restless & Agitated

    Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

    A continued state of Anxiety disorder is likely to cause stomach problems. They may be consistent or intermittent

    Several types of anxiety disorders exist:


    This is caused by Fear. This will lead you to avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.

    Generalized Anxiety :

    This disorder may have started with having a specific anxiety about something particular, however, over a period of time it has extended to day to day events and things.

    Panic disorder

    This can end up being cyclic, as they may be a trigger that causes the panic attack and because it is awkward or embarrassing, the individual will worry about having the panic attack. The panic attack itself involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). They may be feelings of impending doom, breathlessness, chest pain, or a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart (heart palpitations).

    Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)

    People suffering from this have high levels of anxiety, fear and avoid social situations as they feel that they will judged, made fun off, or feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness

    Drug Related anxiety disorder

    Substance abuse by people can lead to intense anxiety or panic that are a direct result of missing, not getting their next fix, drugs,

    “The best use of imagination is ‘Creativity’, The worst is ‘Anxiety’” ~ Deepak Chopra

    An example:

    Wow, the whole thing of needing groceries. People just don’t understand. You have to plan everything meticulously.

    First, getting to the point where you desperately have to go. Second, making a list of products needed that will allow you to be in the smallest area of the store for the shortest period of time. Third (and moving on), getting ready to leave your house. You probably have been a hermit and need a shower. That takes strength to overcome, you were already feeling very comfortable! Next, clothes. Preparing the proper armor: against weather, sunlight, people, noise, crowds… Putting your shoes on. This is it. This means you are actually going to step through the door.

    Driving! Everyone else drives insane! You’re going to be in an accident, what will happen? Someone will be yelling for sure!

    Finally, you reach the store. Parking spot. OMG! Where?? Is there a safe place near the door so you can get in and out quickly? You find one! You turn the engine off and your heart is racing. You can’t see clearly and you can’t breathe. Is getting food worth feeling like this? You still have to leave the safety of your car and go into the store! I’ll let you imagine what being in the store is like…

    You finally get home and get everything put away. You put on comfortable clothes. You sit down and practically melt from the stress and the exhaustion the stress caused. You look at the clock and realize all of this only took two hours. It might as well have been two years.

    You are done in for the day. And maybe the next. You have become quivering jelly, crying and aching because of what all the stress chemicals did to you physically. And NO ONE WILL EVER UNDERSTAND.


    I was looking at my Quora account and came across this draft of my answer. I don’t even know how long it’s been. A couple years?

    I still go through these challenges, everyday… Having to function “in the real world”. Not only is it torturous, so are the comments of others. Especially family.

    [An aside: regarding groceries? I now order online. I can pick them up and bring them home, even in my jammies. At the worst, there is delivery. A cop out?]

    Back to comments –

    “What’s your problem? How hard is it to go to the movies? You will have a great time!” Are you kidding me?! All of the above prep, then a movie theater? People staring, touching you, the noise…

    I have PT in 7 hours. I had back surgery, PT is important. I’ve rescheduled twice, it’s embarrassing and inconsiderate. So what do I do?

    In general, do you know what makes it all worse? My psychiatrist is slowly decreasing my anti-anxiety medication. She won’t even discuss it; hear how she’s killing me. I’m searching for someone new. It’s not the meds (maybe a little), it’s that she doesn’t comprehend. My previous psychiatrist did, but she had to move.

    I’m still wondering… What about PT today? How do I “do” today…..?

    For the past few years, I have struggled with severe social anxiety. People seem to be surprised when I first tell them about my anxiety. I am a decent public speaker, I have performed on large stages in front of hundreds of people on countless occasions. I have many friends, and I am definitely not quiet when I’m around them.

    See, social anxiety doesn’t always mean that you have trouble with public speaking or that you can’t make friends. It means that you are consistently terrified of what others think about you. Whenever I am doing anything, even walking across campus or driving in my car, I am constantly worried by how others are perceiving and judging me.

    To put this into perspective, here is what a simple visit to the doctor to get a flu shot is like for me.

    Before leaving, I carefully consider whether I want my mom to come with me or not. I am 18 years old and perfectly capable of driving to the doctor, walking up to the desk, and going to a room to get a needle stuck in my arm. But what if I look lost? What if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to? But also, I have to grow up. I can’t be an 18 year old girl in college going with her mom to get a flu shot. Everyone will see how pathetic of a human being I am. I decide to go by myself.

    I get into my car. As I’m driving, I turn up the radio and roll down the windows. Like any teenager would do. But before I turn into the parking lot, I make sure to roll up the windows and turn down the music. I can’t have other people in the parking lot hear what I’m listening to. What if they judge me for it? I fix my parking job several times, just so people don’t see my car and think, “Wow. What a terrible park job.”

    I walk into the doctor’s office. There’s no one at the desk, so I stand there awkwardly. I look completely stupid, just standing there, but I can’t say anything or everyone with think I’m loud, obnoxious, and rude. When the lady comes to the desk, she’s probably thinking, “Look at this poor little girl. She doesn’t know what the heck she’s doing.” I tell her I’m there for an 11: 20 nurse appointment to get a flu shot. She tells me to go down the hall and look for the yellow sign. That’s where the flu shots are.

    Ugh. I’m so stupid. I just said I was there for a nurse appointment. She didn’t call it a nurse appointment. Just a flu shot. She must think I’m a complete idiot.

    I say “thank you”, because I can’t have her thinking I’m stupid and impolite, and walk down the hall. But what if there’s no yellow sign? What if there are two yellow signs? What if I get lost and look like an idiot wandering around the doctor’s office?

    I very quickly find the yellow sign and the lady waiting to give me a flu shot. She takes me into the room and tells me to sit in a chair. There are two chairs, one with arms, closer to the desk, and one without arms closer to the door. Which chair do I sit in? I don’t want her to have to ask me to switch chairs because that would just be embarrassing. Is she going to sit at the desk and ask my questions like they would at a nurse appointment? What if I don’t know the answers to the questions?

    No, this isn’t a nurse appointment, you idiot. Remember a few minutes ago when you were completely humiliated? I sit in the chair closest to the door and the counter where the nurse is standing, preparing my shot. I’m such an idiot for even considering sitting in the other chair.

    The nurse gets ready to give me the shot. I’m not terrible with needles, but they do make me a bit nervous and they hurt. But she can’t see that I am even a little nervous because that would make me look stupid. I’m 18. If she says something about me seeming nervous that would be so embarrassing. So I try as desperately as possible to not seem nervous. Thankfully she says nothing. She tells me I’m done. I say “thank you” and leave the room, walking back down the hall I came from. I walk towards the same desk that I checked in at. But on my way, a lady a closer desk asks if she can help me.

    Damn. I probably looked like such an idiot. She asks my last name and I panic for a second but then I say “Smith” and she smiles and thanks me. I leave and walk out the door, hoping and praying I don’t see anyone I know, because then they’ll be wondering why I was at the doctor’s office. What terrible things will they think?

    So yeah. That’s about 15 minutes in my life written out in 700 words of solid anxiety. Lots of “what ifs” that would never actually happen. Lots of self deprecation. Lots of irrational fear. That is my life.

    The severity of my anxiety comes and goes. Some days I am perfectly comfortable in social situations, but a lot of times I just can’t deal with people or I dread seeing someone I know. On my way to class, I will take the route with less people so I don’t have to pass people, but then I am afraid of them judging me for being the only person on the path. I very rarely insert myself into a group of people that is not my closest friends because they probably don’t want me there. A lot of times I won’t even hang out with my friends because they would probably have more fun without me there. I think terribly of myself. I think that everyone would be happier without me because I’m annoying and I don’t understand why anyone would ever want to spend time with me.

    Social anxiety is a constant battle. It controls everything I do. Going anywhere results in an irrational amount of worry and fear. I try to push myself to talk to people when I have the opportunity, but there are often times where I will be out in public and all of a sudden cannot deal with people anymore. In the future, I hope to improve my social anxiety and the way I think about myself, which right now is always very negative. Now that I recognize my anxiety as a problem, I will try not to care so much about what others think about me. Because at the end of the day, what they think about me is not nearly as important as how I treat myself.

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    It’s terrifying. It’s this irrational fear of what people might think of me. It’s constantly present. Everytime I step out I become incredibly self-conscious. I don’t wear leggings without hiding my butt, I wonder if someone is judging me for my looks, I pray that people can’t hear my music.

    I absolutely despise being the center of attention. Whenever something makes me uncomfortable due to my social anxiety I get this itchy feeling all over my body and I start sweating like a pig. My thoughts go crazy and I can’t think clearly, I just feel the pounding sensation to get out – like right now.

    Dropping an orange in the supermarket is a nightmare. I’ll scramble to the floor to find that orange and then hit my head because I’m so nervous. By now I really just want to get out because I can feel peoples’ eyes on me so I don’t really pay attention to how I place the orange back and as lucky as I am about ten oranges come tumbling down along with that one misplaced orange. Luckily out of the people enjoying this scene that could be straight out of a Hollywood movie, someone decides to help me pick up the oranges. It’s hard for me to say thank you so I just give the best “thank you for saving me” smile I can. Finally, when all the oranges have been picked up, I’ll calmly but quickly exit the supermarket without buying what I wanted, never go back again to that supermarket and consider moving to Siberia.

    I’m also very bad at small talk. A cute guy once tried to flirt with me over social media. He asked me to tell him something about myself. I asked him what exactly he wanted to know because I didn’t know what to say. He told me that I was being so funny. I thought really hard for about seven seconds what I could answer before I decided it was easier to just block him.

    Sometimes I stand for my daily 40 minute ride in the subway because I’m scared of what people might think if I sit down, especially if they’re blocking the seats with their bags. Sounds ridiculous, I know.

    I constantly pretend to be on my phone outside as some kind of protection mechanism to avoid awkward and unnecessary eye contact with strangers. That may be part of the reason why I constantly bump into people which is even worse than eye contact, but oh well.

    But the worst part of having social anxiety (as if it wasn’t already bad enough) is that people don’t understand what it is and how it feels like.

    My mom doesn’t understand why I can’t simply ask random people on the street where the supermarket is. She thinks it’s normal.

    My teachers can’t understand how hard it is for me to raise my hand and participate in class. I could’ve had an the best grade in all my presentations because I always nail the research but I can never look into the public or speak like I’m actually talking to them and not just reciting facts, so instead I always get the second best grade. It’s also very frustrating when you knew the answer to a question your teacher asked but you just couldn’t bring it over to raise your hand and answer the question.

    Friends don’t realize how hard it is for me to hold eye contact for longer than three seconds. They occasionally taunt me about it, but since they’re my best friends it’s okay.

    My neighbor doesn’t know how self conscious I am about my voice and how many times I rehearsed “Good morning” every time I see her.

    Having social anxiety is like having these three angels sitting on your shoulder and constantly mocking you:

    I’d also like to add that social anxiety doesn’t only come in one size. Many people will think of stereotypical “nerds” that never go outside, stalk people, read a ton, anti-social, wear big glasses, stay at home all day to play computer when asked about social anxiety.

    Yeah, no. Not true. I have a lot of friends, although only seven close friends, I’m good with the whole grade of my school, I love to go out with my friends but I also enjoy going out by myself, I was elected twice as class representative. But I do read a lot and have glasses.

    I’m also a quite impulsive person and I find it interesting how it mixes with my social anxiety. Earlier this year a boy my age purposely attacked me with a football. I could already feel my anger building up but I didn’t want any problems so I ignored him and kept walking. He did it again so I picked his ball up and threw it in the trash. He got the ball out of the trash, hit me again with that damn ball (this time my head!) and so we had a physical fight. Let’s just say at the end he was crying.

    I’m definitely not proud of it, but I don’t regret it either.

    For me, social anxiety is hard to describe, since it doesn’t really come from any rationale, it’s just a thing that sort of happens.

    Imagine if you will, if everytime you did something socially wrong, or awkward, you got slapped on the wrist with a ruler, hard. It doesn’t matter where you are, or what you did, if you do something weird, the ruler will materialize like an SCP, and it will hurt you each and every time. Now imagine if that’s ruler’s standards of what “wrong” is got stricter and stricter each time it did it, and it gets to the point where you barely even have to do anything for it to slap you on the wrist anymore everytime you tried to talk to somebody. In this ridiculous scenario, would you go out of your way to continue to talk to people, knowing that each and every time, there is a significant penalization for doing so?

    That’s basically what my brain personally does to me. Talking to people is hard, because natural responses to conversation don’t come to me easily, and I am very prone to screwing up in a social conversation, so it gets to the point where i sort of naturally assume that my prescence is considered generally unpleasant by most people, and I don’t want to risk embarrassing myself in front of them.

    The thing to know about social anxiety is that it has a tendency, for most suffers, to add exaggerated importance to things that are otherwise insignificant in nature. This doesn’t always just apply to just negative things, as when something goes really really right, or you get affirmation that somebody isn’t completely sick of your existence, that tends to stick with you, but for the most part, it’s mostly the stupid things you remember. You’re brain is just like “Oh. Did you stutter when telling that joke? Time to think about that one time you flubbed that joke for months and months, and make it more and more embarrassing each time you think about it, until it gets to the point where it’s a horrible memory for you, and thinking about it is painful”. Notice how that situation inflated to a stupidly ridiculous degree? That’s what social anxiety does. It punishes you for even very minor social inadequacies, and it makes it hard to talk to people, because you don’t want to embarrass yourself and then be forced to think about it until you’re old, and memory loss finally allows you to forget about that one time in high school you paused for slightly too long in a conversation, and now you wonder if that’s person even likes you anymore. That’s how social anxiety operates, it makes you anxious about every little detail in social situations, and when you actually do end up doing something wrong, it becomes a constant reminder of the fact that you are socially inadequate, and that because you are so horrible at talking to people, maybe you should just quit.

    I have suffered from severe Social Anxiety Disorder for my entire life; I was officially diagnosed at age 13 (I’m now 31), but I can clearly recognize the disorder’s presence in even my earliest memories. When I was very young, the disorder was very well hidden from others and no one recognized that I had a problem. I can remember numerous occasions when I was introduced to friends of my parents or to distant relatives I was unfamiliar with, and every time, I was too petrified to even say the word “hello” when directly prompted to by my parents. I hid myself behind my parents and covered my face with my hands due to my absolute terror at having a stranger look at me. From the outside, however, I realize that this would not have seemed so unusual for such a young child, and my parents always explained my behavior with a simple “She’s shy.”

    Starting in preschool and extending through all of grammar school, I can distinctly remember having an intense fear of being noticed by either the teachers/aides or the other kids. I felt that I was inferior to everyone, and remaining as invisible as possible became my only goal, because I knew that if anyone took the time to look at me, or (worse) tried to make me speak, they would immediately see right through me and recognize how stupid, unlikeable, and unworthy I was. It did not help that I saw myself as exceptionally physically ugly. (In fact I was merely an unremarkable awkward-looking child.) I avoided all interactions, even such minor ones as looking at people’s faces when they spoke. Unsurprisingly, I graduated from grade school without ever having had a friend, or a friendly acquaintance for that matter. I spoke to no one except my parents and my older brother, because my anxiety was so severe that I was literally incapable of speaking to others — When asked a direct question by a peer or a teacher, I would literally wait silently with my face turning redder and redder until the person gave up and left me alone. (I would discover many years later that this complete inability to speak to anyone outside of a few very familiar individuals was a rare symptom of severe SAD called “Selective Mutism.”)

    In Junior High (6th, 7th and 8th grades), my condition deteriorated even further, to the point where I contemplated and even attempted suicide. For obvious reasons, I was an ideal target for bullying, and this only increased my conviction that I was vastly inferior to everyone around me. Around the end of eighth grade, however, all of the teachers from my various classes got together and called my parents in for a conference, where they explained that I was utterly friendless, never interacted with anyone, would not answer questions in class even when directly called upon, and seemed to live miserably inside my own head. (My parents had been unable to see much of this behavior, as I spoke normally at home.) My teachers strongly urged my parents to get me professional help, and they quickly found a psychologist who specialized in children and adolescents. Despite the fact that I attended approximately a dozen sessions with Dr. Feldman before ever uttering a word, she and my parents refused to give up, and I was finally diagnosed with severe SAD (a term I had never heard before).

    At that point, the worst of my experience with SAD was behind me. I learned and practiced conversational skills with Dr. Feldman, and had the great fortune to meet, during my Sophomore and Junior years of high school, two exceptionally outgoing and kind peers who did not mind, and did not judge, my noticeable tendency toward silence. They treated me as though I was simply a regular teen with a few quirks, and as I gradually learned to be somewhat comfortable with them, I was able to start participating in non-rehearsed, real-life conversations with them. I remained extraordinarily quiet and insecure in general, but my two friends (Megan and Sarah) taught me that I was not simply a defective person who was so ugly, stupid, and incompetent that I owed it to the people around me to make myself as invisible as possible.

    Social Anxiety Disorder has continued to plague me throughout my adult life. When I attended an out-of-state college, I spent all four years friendless, as I constantly interpreted the way people reacted to me as a disapproval or an outright rejection, and therefore I avoided them so as not to annoy them with my presence. I was able to speak in class, although doing so was very stressful for me; I had to mentally rehearse multiple times whatever I intended to say before I could be reasonably sure that it wasn’t humiliatingly stupid. (I often also felt compelled to sneak a glance at my pocket mirror beforehand, to check that I didn’t look particularly monstrous at the moment). These thoughts and behaviors followed me into the working world, where I have found myself predictably and consistently terrified of small talk with co-workers to the extent that I will sometimes get so stressed that I end up hiding in the bathroom just to be alone and calm down.

    I anticipate that these problems will plague me for the rest of my life, and it is extremely difficult to live with this condition. I remain deeply upset by having my picture taken, for example, and then when I see the resulting photo I berate myself over my body, my general appearance, and my inability to do something so simple as to smile naturally. Additionally, I have severe trouble with retaining jobs because I’m deeply uncomfortable using the phone (either calling others or answering calls) because I have no ability to anticipate what conversation is about to ensue and how I might make an idiot of myself during the course of it. (On a number of occasions, I have even lied to bosses and said that I called a client and left them a message, when in fact I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone.) Sometimes I despair of ever functioning normally.

    However, as a bright spot in all of this, the internet has provided me with much less stressful ways to connect with others. (When texting, messaging, etc., no one can tell that you’re repeatedly rereading and revising the message that you constructed that was only ever meant to convey “Hey, how are you doing?”) Additionally, increasing awareness of SAD makes it relatively easy to find others online who suffer from the same condition, and it is much easier to talk to fellow sufferers because you know they’re experiencing the same kinds of insecurities that you’re experiencing. In fact, this is how I first connected with a stranger by the name of Tim; We gradually became comfortable enough with each other by regularly talking online — first about our experiences with SAD and then about anything and everything — that we eventually decided to take the plunge and meet up in person. We’ve been together for over seven years now and have lived together for over five.

    As far as my social life is concerned, I’ve become resigned to the knowledge that I’m never going to be the charismatic person at the party, or the friend who always has interesting stories to tell. But I am learning to be satisfied with and grateful for what I have; Tim, Megan, Sarah, and one more friend (Stephanie, who I met through Megan). That is my social circle, and it is so much more than my younger self would have ever expected to have or deserve.

    And if I have to pop a couple of Klonopin (anxiety meds) and check my face in my mirror a half-dozen times before I show up to hang out with any of them, then I accept those conditions, because Social Anxiety Disorder has been a part of who I am for as far back as my memory reaches, and I am now working on accepting that it always will be.

    Social anxiety completely ruined my life. I’m 22 and looking back at everything I’ve done up until know only fills me with regrets, just a lot of “what if” in my head. I always thought that my anxiety would go away with time by experiencing more things in life, but it didn’t, it never did. Social anxiety controls my way of living almost completely, this constant panic in my head when I’m having social interactions has become so unbearable that I’m ready to go thru lobotomy to make it disappear.

    I’m going to write some parts of my life and show you what it’s like to live with social anxiety :

    I naturally hate being the center of attention, when every peoples attention are directed towards me, I can feel them judging me, analyzing every single movement I make and I become very self-conscious. So growing as a white guy in Africa, I can say that I always standed out in a crowd, and would always attract attention because of my skin color, and for someone who has social anxiety, I can say that it was an absolute living nightmare for me, no matter where I went I was always the white guy who could never bland with the population, and would always attract attention, it was more often by curiosity that people came to talk to me, wanting to know where I’m from, but sometimes I would get racist remarks, people talking in their native language around me, talking trash and thinking that I didn’t understand. This traumatized me to a point where I never felt cumfortable being outside of home, barely going out to attend class, and looking at the hour every minute, praying that the day will end quickly.

    High school was obviously a nightmare, my classemates were always wondering why I never talked, some teachers even thought that I had some severe case of autism. The school director was informed by one of my teacher about my case, and requested my mother to make me see a shrink.

    I missed all of the “fun stuff” in high school, like making friends, having a girlfriend, going to parties, because everytime I would feel uncumfortable when I was surrounded by alot of strangers, and constantly fearing their judgment about me.

    In college, life was a little better, I went to study abroad in France, I was able to bland more with the population which ment less attention on me in public, in class we were over 200 students attending classes, so even less chances of me getting peoples attention, in comparison with my class in high school where we were barely 20 in a class and immediately know eachother. I thought I would get more confident by starting a new life as a college student, far away from my bad experiences in Africa, but nothing really changed. I was always isolated, I usually make great first impressions, knowing that the person in front of me knows nothing about me and was able to put up a show in front of him, but the more I see this person over and over again, I become more cold, closing myself from having a conversation with him because I fear his judgment, I over-analyze every word he starts saying, and thus preventing me from building any form of relationship with anyone.

    Social anxiety also killed any form of ambition in me, because I’m always scared of looking stupid or dumb, I just swept my dreams under the carpet because it’s the easiest thing to do. Not daring to take any risk because of this fear of looking stupid is probably the thing that is mentally killing me.

    Having a girlfriend is absolutely unimaginable, not even in my wildest dream could I even think about kissing a girl, holding hands with her, making love. I’d rather fight an alligator with my bare hands than having small talk with a woman. The weird part is that I’m a fairly goodlooking young man, which means that sooner or later I would start attracting the attention of women solely based on my look. It obviously boosts my confidence but not enough to even dare to approach them. In high school, the girls usually labelled me as cute, innocent, mysterious. They would start sitting next to me and hoping that I would talk to them, but being anywhere near a girl makes me nervous, I start to blush and my hands starts shaking uncontrollably, ten millions questions start turning in my head (What should I say ? Hi? No too generic, I will look stupid. Maybe ask her to lend you a pen, wait I have a pen in my hand, and she saw me using a pen earlier…), this constant monologue in my head, commenting each action I should or shouldn’t make is my daily routine when dealing with stressful situation, and it’s worse when it comes to talking with girls. As you know girls aren’t the ones who are expected to make the first move, they only give signals to a man they are attracted to, and he is the one who has to show he’s got a big pair in his pants by doing the first move. So you can imagine how screwed I am.

    The big issue is being a man having social anxiety, in our society men are suppose to be confident, assertive, ambitious, leaders in life. I obviously lack every single one of these traits and constantly makes me feel less of a man, women will never find me attractive because of that. Women on the other hand can get away more easily with social anxiety, they are usually seen as vulnerable, innocent, needing protection from men, which can make social anxiety bland more easily with these traits.

    Life hasn’t been better for me, I am aware that other people have to live with more debilitating disorder than me, but this is purely my point of, not comparing myself with other people’s lifes.

    It’s like being a mind-reader… who can’t read minds.

    As you navigate the social world and it churns in slow motion, you see and hear absolutely everything. Every gesture, every facial expression, every sigh is thoroughly analyzed to the point where you begin to imagine you know what everyone is thinking. They’re always thinking about you, and it’s never good.

    I like to explain it this way: If you say good morning to me, I can spend all day, all week, thinking what did he mean by that?

    You do weird things. I often have trouble looking people in the eye. I never know where to look. You can imagine the misunderstandings this can cause with the ladies…

    It’s also very expensive. I have never walked into a store to return something. I tend to spend money to avoid what I perceive to be uncomfortable human encounters. If I walk into a store and they don’t have what I was looking for I have to buy something, anything. I imagine I’ll look like a shoplifter walking out of the store empty-handed.

    But that’s peanuts. I blew an entire car engine because the thought of calling a tow truck in an unknown place was terrifying. I call that one my $3,000 panic attack.

    I look guilty a lot, because I feel like I’ve done something wrong by merely existing.

    You can easily become a ghost. I recently lived in a very small, rural town for several years. Every day I went to the local store, the post office and other establishments. There was not a single person in that small town who could have identified me by name.

    Intellectually, you know that your fears are baseless, that it’s just anxiety, that everything is fine. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t help. It’s not fine.

    Certainly there are degrees of severity, but anyone who deals with social anxiety understands quickly how much human interaction governs our world, and how difficult it is to live every day seeing these interactions on monumental challenges.

    How challenging? A couple years ago I found dealing with people so overwhelming I decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail — because hiking up and down 2,200 miles of treacherous mountain trails and sleeping outdoors through freezing cold, rain, snow, lightning, chasing off bears, and living on pop tarts and ramen noodles sounded much, much easier — than small-talk.

    That’s what it’s like.

    In this case:-

    • A person who is dealing with social phobia has a big issue concerned with meeting a crowd of people’s.
    • Having social anxiety is like a “slow poison death. A person who suffers from the social anxiety experienced this every day.
    • Most of people’s cannot understand our condition.
    • Our whole life is in panic. When our phone rings we are in a panic when our door knocked we are in a panic.
    • Fear of public speaking makes us more under confident and worsen our situation.
    • People find ourself egoistic, but they can’t understand our behaviour.
    • We prefer to live alone, we do want to go outside without a reason, we are not interested in parties, family gatherings etc.
    • Silence and solitude is our comfort
    • Fear of judgement restricts us to make conversation with new people’s
    • We are very uncomfortable in public and crowded places.
    • We always panic in the happening of certain as well as uncertain events.
    • We have no fear of death because we are already exhausted.
    • We prefer to head down while walking on the streets to avoid eye contact with strangers.
    • We avoid conversations with guests and relatives.
    • When a guest reaches our home, we are pretending to be in sleep until they leave our home.
    • We face problems in sleeping (affected with both insomnia and hypersomnia).
    • We continuously think about unexpected events.
    • We don’t feel comfortable at day, we feel comfortable at night.
    • They are many unseen wounds in our body and brain. That can never be healed, that can never be diagnosed completely.
    • We don’t have the power to tolerate useless conversations and unproductive opinions from others.
    • In public places, We always feel that people are watching us, judging us on the basis of our looks, dressing sense and behaviour.

    All-day, every day, life is like this. Fear. Apprehension. Avoidance. Pain. Anxiety about what you said. Fear that you said something wrong. Worry about others’ disapproval. Afraid of rejection, of not fitting in. Anxious to enter a conversation, afraid you’ll have nothing to talk about. Hiding what’s wrong with you deep inside, putting up a defensive wall to protect your “secret”. You are undergoing the daily, chronic trouble of living with this mental disorder we call social anxiety disorder.

    Very few people understand the agonizing and traumatic depth of social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety makes people go inside themselves and try to “protect” this secret. Most people with social anxiety disorder try to hide it from others, especially from family and loved ones. There is fear that family members may find out they suffer from social anxiety, and then them differently or outright reject them. This is almost never true, but the fear of this happening makes many people with social anxiety stay in their dark closet.

    If you relate with this, then please do upvote on this answer


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