“SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER
Social Anxiety Disorder (social phobia) is the third largest mental health care problem in the world today. (Social Anxiety Association)
The feelings that accompany social anxiety include anxiety, high levels of fear, nervousness, automatic negative emotional cycles, racing heart, blushing, excessive sweating, dry throat and mouth, trembling, and muscle twitches. In severe situations, people can develop a dysmorphia concerning part of their body (usually the face) in which they perceive themselves irrationally and negatively.
Constant, intense anxiety (fear) is the most common symptom.” (SAA)
Everyday Experiences Made Difficult by S.A.D.
My mother insists that a phone call has to be made to my college adviser about a missing financial statement. It’s someone I’ve met before and she seems nice enough. I like her and have less fear of judgement from her than many people.
I beg and plead for my mom to wait until we get home so I can simply e-mail her.
She says no in a voice that there is no arguing with.
My hands shake as I dial the numbers. I have to erase everything and start over. Twice. I feel a blush creeping up my face.
The line begins ringing. On the third ring I hang up.
It hurts to breathe. Oh God.
She is simply looking at me like I’m being a baby.
My chest tightens and I am gasping for air as tears stream silently down my face.
The tears make me angry. Furious.
I toss the phone on the dashboard of the car.
She looks at the phone and turns her angry gaze on me.
I dig my fingers into my thighs and focus on the pain to feel something other than abject terror.
I retrieve the phone. I can get air into my lungs now.
Taking a shaky breath I re-dial. It takes me almost a full minute.
It’s ringing. I swipe at my eyes as if the person on the other end of the line can see me.
I give her a ‘please help’ look and she gives me an encouraging smile.
My throat is still tight and I choke back a sob.
The line picks up and I plaster on a smile and delve into the conversation. I twirl my hair and fan my heated cheeks and get more annoyed as my accent thickens to near hillbilly.
I stutter once. I nearly lose my composure entirely and I begin to bite at my nail.
The conversation soon ends and I struggle over whether to say “Goodbye,” “Bye!,” “Have a nice day,” or “See you soon.” I know it really doesn’t matter.
We hang up and I slump back into my worn, slightly fuzzy car seat.
I close my eyes and focus on slowing my racing heart before it pounds out of my chest.
I can feel the heat fading from my cheeks and my throat slowly opens back up.
“You did so well, I don’t know why you freak out like that. You are in college, you’re going to have to make phone calls more often.”
I recline the seat and push out a long breath.
Embarrassment wells up in me and suddenly I have the urge to cry again.
I bite my lip so hard I almost break skin and the tears dissipate.
I think about my inadequacy all throughout the day. And when I lay awake at 1AM I am still thinking about it and still angry with myself.
I have to set up a vet appointment tomorrow.
More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder every year in the United States.
S.A.D. is a chronic mental condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety and can last a lifetime.
For people with social anxiety disorder, everyday social interactions cause irrational anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment.
Symptoms may include excess fear of situations in which one may be judged, worry about embarrassment or humiliation, or concern about offending someone.
Talk therapy and antidepressants can help increase confidence and improve ability to interact with others.
Social anxiety is the fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people. It is a pervasive disorder and causes anxiety and fear in most all areas of a person’s life. (SAA)
People with social anxiety usually experience significant distress in the following situations:
Being introduced to other people
Being teased or criticized
Being the center of attention
Being watched or observed while doing something
Having to say something in a public or formal setting
Meeting people in authority
Feeling out of place in social situations and not knowing what to say
Embarrassing easily (blushing, shacking, etc.)
Meeting other people’s eyes
Swallowing, talking, or making phone calls if in public
Those of us with Social Anxiety know that our anxiety is irrational. We know that it is strange and that we should be able to do these things like everyone else. We don’t want to be like this. We crave peace and freedom from constant fear while in public. We– I crave normalcy.
**Social Anxiety Fact Sheet: What is Social Anxiety Disorder? Symptoms, Treatment, Prevalence, Medications, Insight, Prognosis. Thomas A. Richards, Ph. D., Psychologist. Social Anxiety Association. web. (2013)
–The light will lead us
*** Photo credit: Marissa Farabee, Flightrisk Photography ® 2016.