I am a self-proclaimed awkward person; I often make jokes at my own expense about it. Still, there is weight behind my words. Being ‘awkward’ is a manifestation of my social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety is often misunderstood. According to WebMD social anxiety disorder “is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations.” Many people like me are tired of dealing with the limiting stereotypes.
1. People only see the outward appearance and rarely know what is going on in a person’s head. Acting “normal” is an easy behavior to feign. As a young child, I had a constant fear of everyone hating me. My mother taught me how to be kind and accepting of others, but I couldn’t accept myself. I fooled everyone into thinking I was normal while inside my head I was living in fear of socialization.
2. Your mind has more power than you can believe. I make myself physically ill by over-examining every social interaction I have had. Physical manifestations are common symptoms of anxiety disorders. “Physical symptoms of anxiety, include confusion, pounding heart, sweating, shaking, blushing, muscle tension, upset stomach and diarrhea,” WebMD explains.
3. Though it is common in the U.S., it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. It is the second most common anxiety disorder with 19.2 million Americans estimated in having the condition. WebMD cites it as “the third most common mental disorder in the U.S.”
4. The fear is sometimes illogical. There is a disconnect between what I know to be logical and the action I take to put that logic into place. I know I’m not going to die if I join a new club with a bunch of people I don’t know, but my mind will not cease to panic. It’s a debilitating disorder that doesn’t allow me to my true self in public. I have so many missed opportunities that fill me with regret.
5. Low self-confidence and anxiety are related, but not the same thing. In the past I had low self-esteem, but I have devoted a large part of my life to self-love. I have high self-confidence now but it doesn’t stop the anxious thoughts. Confidence helps at times, but the thoughts never completely go away.
6. People with anxiety don’t hate other people. I believe people are inherently good. I love that everyone has a story and a past that is much more than surface exterior. I just question if people like me back. People with social anxiety worry of others judging them. I can laugh off some embarrassing situations, but thinking everyone has the ability to hate me is what distresses me.
7. Don’t take people’s disorders personally. I may walk away from you without saying goodbye. Please don’t think of me as rude. I am a respectful person, but sometimes social situations are just too much.
8. People with anxiety shouldn’t be called ‘flakes.’ Before I go out of my comfort zone, I prepare myself for all the possibilities I could encounter. Overthinking makes me want to stay in my room forever, even though I love the outside world and the people in it.
9. Don’t belittle people’s emotions. A social situation might be a breeze for many, but people with social anxiety have brains that are wired differently. Don’t tell anyone how they should be feeling. Social stimuli are going to affect everyone differently.
10. Don’t assume these people are incapable of being in leadership positions. People with emotional issues are often seen as incompetent and unreliable. I put myself in these situations to prove that I am capable of handling them. Shame on you if you think I’m incapable of being in a leadership position. I have no bounds. Not even I can hold me back.
The Counseling Center is located in Lyle Hall. You can make an appointment by calling the Counseling Center at (717) 872-3122.