This is what I believe passionately. It’s why I wrote the book: Social Anxiety Revealed and why I’m so excited about its publication next month.
Why is it so important?
1. People with social anxiety are misunderstood
Misunderstandings occur in so many ways. For instance, other people think that a man who has never had a girlfriend must be gay; that anyone who is isolated from society prefers to be that way; that someone who doesn’t state a view doesn’t have one; that keeping quiet is a sign of stupidity.
No one likes to be misunderstood. Social anxiety sufferers are poorly equipped to change misconceptions about themselves.
2. People with social anxiety are ignored
It’s natural to want to interact with those who are friendly, lively, fun to be with. Those who are quiet and hold back are more work. Why make the effort?
3. People with social anxiety are considered unworthy of help
Attitudes have changed with regard to eating disorders and self-harm. It used to be thought that such damage to one’s own body was a personal choice. There used to be resentment that public money was spent on treatment for self-harmers. Now it’s understood that it’s not a matter of choice.
Social anxiety still needs more such recognition. People still think social anxiety is a life choice. Even sufferers feel they have brought it on themselves. I have struggled with this self-blame even though logic tells me:
4. People with social anxiety need help
Only a small number of people are able to change their lives by themselves. Despite a number of self-help books, in most cases personal help from outside is essential, whether from professionals or from family, friends or colleagues.
5. Some people with social anxiety don’t even know the name
How can anyone begin to change if they don’t know what they have or even that they’re suffering from a known condition? How can they know about tried and tested treatments?
In addition, lack of knowledge leads to added loneliness. When they finally discover the name and come across communities of like-minded people behind it, sufferers are amazed at the number going though the same or similar experiences. Each one who joins an online forum of sufferers says, “I thought I was the only one.” What a burden to have to carry!
6. Social anxiety appears in adolescence and should vanish in adolescence
Usually, social anxiety begins during the teenage years. That’s the best time to deal with it – before ensuing behavioural changes have become the norm. Parents and teachers need to recognise it before it takes over. Just as invasive trees need to be uprooted before they take over and kill off the indigenous trees, so social anxiety must be removed before it becomes strong enough to take over inborn traits.
7. Quiet children need as much attention as noisy children
Teachers should encourage quiet children to take an active part in class. This must be much more than a complaining sentence in an end-of-term report. They need to find a way of drawing these pupils in. They need to actively encourage social activity outside the classroom.
This is so important, because burgeoning social anxiety must be dealt with as soon as possible.
8. Time is against us
The longer social anxiety lingers, the harder it is to deal with it. Behaviours become more ingrained and feel natural. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks is an idiom that fits here.
9. The world is missing out
There is a host of intelligent people who could be contributing to society if only they were helped to control their fear of society. Some of them have found that anxiety makes it impossible for them to hold down a job and have instead received benefits. What a waste!
Social anxiety itself has become yet another topic that people with social anxiety are afraid to talk about. “If they knew, they’d think I was crazy/stupid/etc. They wouldn’t want to know me. They’d laugh at me.” These are common thoughts that need to go.
Social Anxiety Revealed is released by Crooked Cat Books on August 22, 2017.