People with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) also known as social phobia, experience intense anxiety in social situations or in performance situations. With social anxiety you also experience a fear of embarrassment or humiliation. Sometimes this can be mistaken for shyness – all my life I thought that I was just really shy, that it was just my personality – that’s what everyone told me – when in fact I had Social Anxiety Disorder all along. I used to feel so powerless, like I could never do anything to change it, but now I manage it myself.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been extremely afraid of being embarrassed. In primary school I remember you had to participate in at least one sport on sports day – I hated sports, I never wanted to do anything but I had to. I was so afraid of being embarrassed or humiliated – what if I came last? Everyone would laugh at me, I would be humiliated.
My whole school life from 4 years old to 18 years old, and even during the 3 years after that at university, I have always been intensely afraid of a teacher asking me a question in class – what if I didn’t know the answer? I had no idea what the teacher was going to ask me, so how could I prepare and plan to answer it?
These kinds of intense anxiety and fear are examples of Social Anxiety Disorder. With Social Anxiety you overthink everything.
Imagine your worst fear…
A guy who is extremely afraid of heights is standing on the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world, he can’t get down – this is his worst fear. With Social Anxiety Disorder, my answer is always embarrassment and humiliation – I imagine the person I like finding out I have a crush on them and laughing in my face, or a teacher asking me a question in class I don’t know the answer to – everyone in the class is staring at me, I imagine they’re thinking – she doesn’t know the answer? Is she stupid?
These of course, are completely irrational thoughts.
People are probably more preoccupied with their own thoughts and lives than focused on humiliating you – you can’t read someone else’s thoughts so you can’t know what they’re really thinking – but you overthink and imagine the worst possible outcome. For people with Social Anxiety Disorder it feels like the end of the world – it is your worst fear. But, other people may think someone laughing at you or making you feel embarrassed or humiliated isn’t the end of the world – it happens to everyone. This is also completely normal – I have been up the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world), I thought it was amazing. But, my sister who was with me is afraid of heights (Acrophobia), and all she wanted was to go back down again – in the end she had to, she was so afraid.
Any fear can seem irrational to another person if they haven’t experienced the same fear.
There are so many different phobias out there – for example, I personally don’t understand why anyone who isn’t a werewolf would be afraid of the moon (Selenophobia) – but I don’t judge, I understand what it’s like to be afraid of something other people may think is irrational.
I manage my social anxiety by: exercising, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, changing my mood through music and by trying to boost my confidence and self esteem.
Within this page, I will explore issues related to Social Anxiety Disorder.