Op-Ed: Living with Social Anxiety

Photo illustration by Ava Lockhart ’21.

Regardless of how bad things get, if you put in the time and effort to make a change, it can get better.

Remember that if you find yourself hiding in a bathroom stall, gasping for air, or crying because you cannot see a way out.

I speak from experience. Those who have met me would say that I’m a very quiet person. That is quite obvious. What people don’t understand is why.

For the majority of my life I’ve dealt with Social Anxiety Disorder, which, according to the Social Anxiety Association, is “the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people.”

Anxiety disorders are generally pervasive and quite difficult to completely overcome.

Though social anxiety can vary from person to person, the disorder revolves around a fear of social situations. For me, it often causes me to put aside rationality and instills a fear of being around other people or being in public at all.

The effects of the disorder vary between individuals who have it. In some cases, it is very obvious that a person has anxiety, but other times, you might not be able to tell.

Social anxiety is much more than just being shy or speaking softly.

It greatly affects my ability to participate in daily life. Ordering food, leaving my house, or even having a simple conversation becomes an impossible task to complete due to racing thoughts and short breaths that accompany my panic.

My anxiety also negatively affects my mental well-being. I often feel out of place around others. Sometimes, I feel less than human.

Though it is rarely the case, it can feel like everyone is always watching, thinking, or talking about me when I’m in a room.

I find myself in a constant battle with my own mind over simple tasks like throwing something away, saying a sentence, or opening a door. My social anxiety is mentally and physically exhausting.

While I am aware that I have many obvious symptoms of social anxiety, I have made a lot of progress in overcoming it.

The reality of having an anxiety disorder is that with lots of hard work—and sometimes prescribed medication—one can persevere.

I have made lots of progress with my anxiety compared to where I once was; at my old school, often I did not eat meals or look at people, and I missed so many of my classes to the point where I almost had to repeat two grades.

Now, after years of therapy, and endless work on my own, I am much happier in life and comfortable being me.

I am still an anxious person, but now it’s tolerable.

This has been my experience with social anxiety, and although everyone is affected by it differently, they are all affected nonetheless. So, don’t be afraid to talk with someone who’s struggling to find a place in the crowd. You might just help them feel a bit more comfortable.

Editors’ note: If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, please seek help from a school counselor, who can also introduce you to other helpful resources. 

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