Social Anxiety is a mental health condition described by psychologist Dr. Thomas Richards as, “the fear of social situations that involve interaction with other people” as well as, “the fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people.” Some of the behaviors associated with social anxiety are isolating yourself from others, intense fear when speaking in front of or to others, caring strongly about others’ opinions of you and staying away from situations that may cause you embarrassment. Although some of these behaviors are common regardless of if you have social anxiety or not, if you find that these behaviors and thoughts are chronic (occur on a continuous basis), then you may have social anxiety.
I’ve had social anxiety since I was in elementary school, but I didn’t actually know the term for it until about two years ago. Hopefully, those who are reading this right now will leave this article feeling like they know a little bit more about what it’s like having social anxiety.
That said, here are five things that are annoying about having social anxiety.
Being asked, “Why Don’t You Talk?”
The two questions that I get asked most often are, “Why don’t you talk?” or, “Why are you so quiet?” Questions like these irritate me for multiple reasons. For one, even though these questions are laced with fake concern, for the majority of the time, the people who ask these questions are only looking for an excuse to pick you apart and analyze you. Furthermore, there is an expectation that the answer will be something non-complicated like, “I just don’t like people” or “It’s just my personality.” However, for the most part, the reason people, “don’t talk” is always going to be more complex than that. If I were to honestly answer every time people ask me things like this, the answer would be something along the lines of, “Um…IdonttalkbecauseIsufferfromadisorderinwhichmyminddistortsanysocialinteractionasanattackbeingmadeonmeIdon’thatepeoplenecessarilyIhavethisirrationalfearthatIfItalktosomeonetheywillcriticizemeandmyfeeblebraincannothandleorprocesssocialrejectionsoinsteadIkeeptomyselftoavoidthatand …”
If we’re all being honest here, nobody wants to hear the honest answer. So for both of our sakes, just stop asking me.
Missing Out On Fun Opportunities Because of Fear
There is a huge misconception that people with social anxiety purposely exclude themselves because they don’t want to have friends or because they hate people. However, the reason why people with social anxiety isolate themselves is because we have this irrational fear that we may be judged or negatively evaluated by others.
I’ve always loved to dance since I was a child. However, when given the opportunity to join dance teams at school, the fear of being made fun of or not being good enough has stopped me from doing something that I love. No matter how talented I may be at something, I constantly look for the validation of others and what they will think about everything I do. This is, unfortunately, a big part of my struggles with social anxiety. Of course, I know that my existence is not important enough for people to constantly think about me or judge me, but this constant fear of others hating me just can’t be shaken off. Due to this, I’ve missed out on a lot of fun opportunities that I should’ve enjoyed while I am still in high school.
Dealing With Extroverted People
As an introvert with high levels of social anxiety, I pretty much have a laundry list of things that extroverts do that annoy me. Not to generalize, but in my experience, extroverts tend to have a total lack of empathy for people who aren’t comfortable in social situations. The attitude that I’ve seen from a lot of extroverts is:
- “I don’t see how it’s hard for you to talk.”
- “Who cares what other people think?”
- “You should just put yourself out there and get over it.”
- “You don’t have friends because you don’t try to make them.”
- “This is the real world, get over it.”
I can understand how extroverts can relate to people with social anxiety because we’re basically on opposite sides of the spectrum. With that said, this is no excuse for the complete lack of empathy and disregard for people who aren’t as comfortable in social situations. The efforts to invalidate the experiences that people with social anxiety face disgusts me. No one is asking you to pity us, but having respect for other humans and what they go through should be the standard rule for any social interaction.
Having Assumptions Made About Me
The unfortunate thing about a lot of people is that when they see someone who tends to keep to themselves or is quiet, they are scared to interact with them. In my own life, no one wants to make an effort to get to know me, so instead, people come up with perverse lies to make themselves feel better about the fact that I simply don’t like to talk. For example, I’ve had people assume that I’m somehow violent and hate people all because I don’t talk and have a bit of resting bitch face. I’ve had people say that I must “cuss people out in my head” because I “look annoyed all the time.” Apparently, if you’re not a talkative person, suddenly your a “school shooter” or a “terrorist.” These assumptions are very hurtful and could be easily cleared up if you simply take the time to introduce yourself to someone with social anxiety and talk to them. I promise we don’t bite. Most of the time, people with social anxiety are extremely social and fun but don’t talk precisely because they are afraid of social situations in which they will be villainized or made fun of.
Worrying About How Every Little Thing You Say Or Do Will Be Perceived
Social Anxiety is a monster that manipulates your mind into overthinking the smallest social interactions. One of the things I find myself constantly doing is making preemptive moves in order to avoid being negatively judged by others. For example, because I am a plus-sized girl, I’ve been dodging fat jokes since elementary school. To protect myself from any criticism or ridicule, I often try to hide my fatness in as many ways as possible to avoid a situation where someone could call me fat. At school, I rarely eat in front of others because my mind tells me that if I eat too fast or too much, people will call out my weight and tell me to slow down. When I have to walk up the stairs between classes, I often try to leave earlier so that way no one else is on the staircase. I do this so that if I walk too slow on the stairs, no one can say that I’m out of shape. I avoid physical activity at all costs, to prevent anyone from noticing that I’m out of shape. These are a few of the small habits I make to avoid putting myself in a situation where someone might criticize me. This is a result of my brain telling me that being judged in any way by others is the end of the world.
If you related to any of the things mentioned, then you may just suffer from social anxiety. The good news is that there are always ways to make having social anxiety just a little bit easier every day. Mental health professionals have confirmed that social anxiety is a completely treatable condition. Resources such as therapy, support groups, and hotlines may ease some of the suffering associated with social anxiety.
Regardless of whether or not you have social anxiety, there are many educational resources that can aid you in understanding the science behind it, and overall make you a more empathetic person towards those who suffer from social disorders. As hard as it is to suffer from social anxiety, if you take the tiny battles one day at a time, you’ll slowly begin to cope.