I suffer from social anxiety. Social anxiety Disorder is a recognized psychiatric condition and is common in both sexes and which causes distress and impaired ability to function in social situations in a person’s daily life. This is my personal story but I must say that I manage my anxiety well now, and keep my stress levels down as much as possible. I won’t say that I am ‘cured’ but I am learning again to enjoy the things I once feared.
Social anxiety affects millions of people yearly and is the third largest mental health problem in the world. We are often referred to as shy but that is not necessarily so. I am only shy or nervous in a few situations whereas I can give a talk to groups of people without any problem (public speaking is the most common social fear). Some people are shy but don’t show it outwardly, actually acting quite the opposite to hide their nervousness.
What frightens me:
Meeting new people in new places
Dating (although now Im engaged that is no longer a problem I face)
Looking different from everyone else
Embarrassing myself in front of others
I would describe myself as an emotional person and that makes me more likely to be shy or a worrier or to get depressed etc. I don’t regard this though as a complete negative as I also am kind hearted and a caring person which is the positive side of being that emotional person. Many factors also play a part in whether you develop social anxiety such as the way You were brought up and your family life, your learned experiences and the way you reacted to them.
I probably developed social anxiety in my early 20s but cant think of any event that may have triggered it off. As a child I was confident, outgoing and friendly. It must have been a gradual thing. I was a young mother at the time and my self esteem was not very good, I worried about everything and I became a negative thinker. I didn’t socialize much as we didn’t have much money and so it was confined to mainly family events and meeting my husbands friends. I cant remember having too many friends of my own at that time.
As a shy person I worried about what others thought of me and I didn’t feel I measured up at social situations like parties and other social gatherings. It wasn’t helped by having a husband who was a critical and negative person, not just of me, but of most things in general. I always felt and sometimes made to feel that I was fat and frumpy next to the other wives. This in turn made me feel that I didn’t want to go or contribute to the conversations at these gatherings. People just thought I was shy.
As a consequence I started to avoid social situations like the plague.
A great book I would like to recommend here and now is Overcoming Shyness and Social Phobia: A Step-by-Step Guide (Clinical Application of Evidence-Based Psychotherapy). It is a guide and a work book by Ronald M Rapee PhD that I have used and found to be very helpful to understanding and managing shyness and social anxiety.