Social anxiety and me

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I haven’t posted much about my struggles with social anxiety, so today I’ll talk a bit about that. Social anxiety is more than being shy with strangers or being nervous to give a presentation. I guess some people have these complaints and call it social anxiety, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

In my case, it’s an extreme fear of being judged negatively by other people and even the assumption that I am being negatively judged. This is the basic fear social anxiety sufferers have in common. For some, it can so restrict their life that they no longer go out of their homes – not because of agoraphobia, but for fear of meeting people – meeting anyone, even pedestrians passing on the street.

Thank God, my anxiety never reached that far. But I have struggled in every area of my life because of this anxiety. I have had few friends (though I do have a few). I was handicapped in school by being unable to speak in class. I was unable to get work for a long time because I could not pass a job interview because of anxiety. I never really dated – I figured I was too ugly (and I wasn’t, not when I was young). I have been fired from jobs because bosses mistook my anxiety for lack of competence.

That left me very vulnerable to the black dog of depression. I didn’t know what was wrong with me – why I turned all red when I had to answer a question, why I had no friends, why I always failed.

One of the favours my psychiatrist did for me, and he did help me somewhat as well as harming me quite a bit, was he diagnosed me with this disorder. Once I had a name for it, I could read about it – yes, other people have this! Yes, there are treatments! All is not lost…. That’s how I felt at the time.

Since then, I’ve become a bit of an expert. I’ve read books, I’ve gone to self help groups, I’ve done ‘exposures’. It’s all helped.

Currently, I’ve noticed this anxiety really came back since I stopped taking the AD (cipralex) that was making me ill but less socially anxious. You wouldn’t think a problem like that would be chemical would you? It seems to be a disorder where the brain is malfunctioning somehow. However, it doesn’t follow that the way to cure it is to take a drug. Other interventions can slowly change the wiring of the brain. I do believe this.

So, how does it all feel? Well, when I walk down the street now post AD, I start to think passersby are judging me – something about the way I look or walk, I start thinking my glasses are ugly, my hair needs cutting, etc. etc.

I have a problem with the phone – making any kind of call feels scary to me, and I will avoid making even routine calls. My fear is so strong that I will literally forget that I must phone this or that place until the office is closed for the day. Then it hits me – I avoided again.

I have to get to work, but will post more on this later.

  1. This was such a brilliant post.. again you have described my life in a lot of ways. It’s a crucifying and debilitating thing .. this kind of anxiety. Your comment at the end about avoidance and forgetting gave me something along the lines of an electric shock. It is something that i never considered.. that I ‘forget’ in order to avoid… That really is something to think about. Hey Ellen.. that is a revelation!

  2. Ellen said:

    Thanks very much Happy. I’m always wondering if anyone will read what I write…I’m glad it struck a chord with you. ‘Forgetting’ to make calls drives me crazy – but at least now I know I’m doing it. Cheers

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