Living With Social Anxiety
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Health and Wellness

Living With Social Anxiety

People, seemingly normal situations, and overthinking, oh my!

Living With Social Anxiety
The Mighty

Social anxiety is defined as "anxiety (intense nervousness) in which a person has intense and excessive fear of social situations." To be more specific, it feels like every single person in the room is staring and you and you can quite literally feel their eyes on you. Judging you, making fun of you, picking out the things you don't like about yourself. You feel like you can't breathe because everyone is glaring at you. You almost forget how to walk in front of people. With this, other anxiety symptoms may follow; sweating, muscle tension, and a racing heart. Yeah, not my idea of a good time either.

I was always labeled "shy" growing up. Teacher after teacher would write "good student, but should participate more in class" on every report card I ever received. I always thought to myself, "Why is this so hard for me? What is wrong with me?" I knew that this wasn't just simply "shyness." I was always way too nervous to put my hand up and get called on in fear that I would answer wrong and look stupid, get up and throw my trash away, or to blow my nose in class. It made my heart beat way too fast to just be considered quietness. I was way too self-conscious about my every single move of every single day; it had to be something more. It wasn't until later in my life that I realized there was absolutely no way that I was just shy and that I had social anxiety. Just to clarify, there are differences between a phobia of speaking in public and having social anxiety disorder.

Class presentations, group projects, or social situations in school were always extremely hard for me. Words never would come out right because I would be too focused on what I looked like, what I was doing, or what my voice sounded like to focus on the actual presentation itself. All I ever care about is whether or not I look stupid, and with that comes extreme social anxiety.

Social anxiety disorder is not the same thing as being an introvert, though I am also introverted, it is a crippling thing to have. It's this feeling of completely irrational thoughts that go through your mind anywhere people are. It's being gripped with doing something as simple as ordering food or checking out in the grocery store. It's not asking an employee for assistance because you don't want to get in their way or be an annoyance. It's going around and out of the way of people to avoid them. It's overthinking a minuscule conversation you had weeks ago and cringing over what you said, though chances are, the other person hasn't given it a second thought. It is swallowing water in class and freaking out that someone heard you and is critiquing your swallowing. It is trying to find a private place to talk on the phone in public. It is missing your stop on the bus because if you pulled the cord, everyone would watch you and be annoyed with you for making the bus stop. It is not correcting anyone, in fear they will hate you. I think you get the point, it sucks, basically.

In college, the struggle of social anxiety is real. I have to give myself enough time before each class to get there early so nobody will watch me walk in. I have to look at the lines in the Union and have a battle with myself of "do I really need to eat?" Anywhere I sit, I scan the room and find the area with the least amount of people. I choose to walk instead of taking the bus. I would rather break my leg than play those "get to know each other" games in class. Being a college student and having social anxiety isn't a great mixture, but that's life, and unfortunately so.

I struggle with this daily and I know there are millions of others that do too. I never knew what it really was and I always thought something was wrong with me. I was so envious of the people who did whatever they pleased, said whatever they wanted, and didn't have a care in the world. Only recently, have I accepted myself for who I am. I have social anxiety disorder and I am not ashamed to say it. It will always be there, but with the help of professionals and my friends and family, it will get better and easier to deal with. If you're going through this or something similar, just know that you are NOT alone, ever.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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