An estimated 19.2 million Americans have social anxiety disorder. It’s the third most common mental disorder after depression and alcohol dependence.
I was always shy as a kid. However, I knew I wasn’t just "shy". I had a lot of trouble making and keeping friends, raising my hand in class, giving presentations, playing sports in gym, and talking to new people. All of these experience gave me a feeling of nervousness too serious to just to have me be labeled as “shy.” I decided to go to a therapist because I was a Senior in college and I still never grew out of being shy. Then, I found out I have social anxiety my Senior year of college. College is hard with social anxiety for many reasons.
I still feel nervous when giving a presentation because I get worried I won’t get the words out. And, going up to a professor after class to ask a question is difficult because I don’t want to “bother” them. I hardly raise my hand on the off-chance I answer incorrectly and look stupid. But, almost every time I do that I have the right answer in mind.
Also, I often experience "anticipatory" anxiety -- the fear of a situation before it even happens -- for days or weeks before the event. Whether it be an event, test, or a class I will be worried about it for day and weeks on end until it is finally over.
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Parties combine two things I hate: crowded places and strangers. However, I manage to enjoy myself with the help of alcohol. Whenever I enter a room at party I can feel people’s eyes looking at me. I convince myself they are judging me for my hair, clothes, friend group or whatever my anxiety decides. If I am left alone or lose one of my friends I feel a panic attack coming on.
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It is hard to make and keep friends when you have social anxiety. The act of approaching people, even if you're already friends, can be difficult. Also, anxiety can change your personality. For example, when I’m comfortable I’m funny, sarcastic, easy-going, friendly, and empathetic. But, when I’m anxious I’m reserved, uptight, and timid. I try to push through anxious feelings and be myself because I don’t want people to see that side of me.
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I have tried to take control of my anxiety through seeing a therapist and trying to stop the negative self-talk in my daily life. It isn’t easy going through college with a mental illness like social anxiety because in college you are constantly interacting with people, whether it is students or professors. However, with help from professionals and the support of my friends, I know that my college experience can be just as great as someone without anxiety.