We all know what it feels like to experience anxiety before giving a speech at a wedding or before having to do a presentation. For many people this can be unbearable. Imagine having those feelings, then, every single day of the week when you wake up or when you are in company or walking down the street. Social anxiety (or SA as it is known) is when social situations become a problem in your life, affecting you and the decisions you make on a daily basis.
Simply put, social anxiety is the feeling of not being equipped to deal with social situations. It may take suffers some time to realise that their condition actually has a name and that other people experience it, too. Making this discovery is often the first step in actually being able to deal with it because it helps you to see that you are not the only one.
One of the most crippling things about it, like many psychological problems, is that it can be very difficult to actually tell anyone you have got it. Those that share their condition with others in the past are often met with mixed reactions - but mostly people may not know what to say or how to help. Their natural response may be ‘You hide it so well’, or ‘You worry about it too much. You’re fine.’ What people don’t see is how you feel inside.
One of the most valuable things for individuals in this situation is to share their fears and anxieties with other people who felt the same way; being able to talk about it without feeling ashamed or odd because of it. There is a renewed drive now in the media towards mental illnesses such as depression, and real attempts are being made to bring it to peoples’ attention and to take the stigma away. The same needs to happen for social anxiety.
Incredibly, SA is the third largest psychological problem in the United States today. Who would have thought that? It just shows you how good people are at hiding it. The problem with hiding things is that they are not a secret for the person who possesses them.
Social anxiety is a very lonely secret to hold, but how much better would it be if it didn’t have to be kept hidden; even if it was just once a week where a person with SA can actually be themselves in other peoples’ company, where it is acceptable to have SA? Think how much more energy and focus that person would have because they don’t have to use so much energy keeping it out of sight.
There are groups for social anxiety appearing throughout the UK, but they are not always close to home. There are other avenues, though, which can be of benefit, such as the Social Anxiety UK website that holds forums and information for sufferers to access.
If you are someone who experiences social anxiety or knows someone who does and you would like more information, contacting a counsellor can be that all-important first step.