Social Anxiety and Me
Many people suffer from social anxiety for many years without knowing this is their problem, or even knowing the condition exists. I did. Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) is a relatively common mental health condition which produces an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. I found it resulted in a crippling fear of social situations and interactions with other people and caused a progressive inability to manage public contact. Social anxiety is a pervasive disorder that causes anxiety and fear in most or all areas of a person’s life.
Please understand, shyness or regular anxiety is not the same as living with social anxiety. For example, most people know the feeling of being nervous or uncomfortable when with a group of people. They have experienced clamming up when being introduced to somebody new or felt the palms of their hands become sweaty before they make a public presentation, or give a speech to a large group. To feel shy or become a little bit anxious is perfectly normal, but most people can overcome this. However, if you suffer from social anxiety disorder, the stress of these situations is too difficult to cope with.
For me, this often meant avoiding all social contact including making small talk and even eye contact. And, because social anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder in the modern world, it is considered to be a public health issue. It has major negative consequences not only for the individual but for society as a whole. As many as 12% of people will be affected by social anxiety disorder during their lives.
However, because social anxiety disorder is so common, help is available: the difficult bit is having the courage to ask for it. Most of the therapies take time: and by that I mean months or years.
One of the main treatments is conducted by psychologists: cognitive therapy. This is a treatment where the therapist works to get patients to accept their fear, to go into challenging situations and to shift their attention to what they want to say and do in those situations. In other words: Accept inwardly and focus outwardly. It is difficult to do, but if you are willing, this can be achieved. But, I know, it is easier said than done. In order to get over the limitations social anxiety disorder, you and I need to recognise our problem and be brave enough to ask for help.
Thank you for this, Val.