By Katja Montesque
Hello, my name is Kat, and I have social anxiety.
Social anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders a person can suffer of.What is social anxiety? Well, Web MD defines social anxiety as:“Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. Anxiety (intense nervousness) and self-consciousness arise from a fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others.” (You can read the rest of the article here.)
Now. I could spend hours here, trying to describe what social anxiety is, how it is developed,but the truth is, I am not an expert in the topic. I haven’t studied psychology or psychiatry. I don’t really know the way human brains work in this aspect, I do not want to claim to have the authority to explain the symptoms, diagnosis, and physiology of anxiety disorders.
However, not too long ago, in my last counselling session, my counsellor brought up the topic of social anxiety. She described anxiety as a feeling that begins in my stomach, and feels like it grows, reaching my head, taking control over me.Social anxiety is different for every person. If you feel like you might suffer from this particular form of anxiety, you should definitely try to see a counsellor or a psychologist to get them to diagnose you. Getting a diagnosis is the first step towards getting better, and they will help you find ways to cope with your anxiety.
Some people with anxiety dread leaving the house in the morning, scared of being involved in social situations. Some people avoid crowded places. Others are too scared to order their coffee at the local café, or to speak in front of class. Some dread going to a party alone, where they won’t really know many people. Different things cause anxiety for different people.
In my case, I absolutely dread ordering food at cafés or restaurants, speaking on the phone, returning things or even asking for a different size or colour in shops. I don’t want to be judged, and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. Some may think I am terribly shy, which I am, and at the same time I’m not. Others might think I’m a little rude, when I don’t make eye contact whilst making my order, or mumble, or try to get someone else to speak for me. Or they probably wonder why I am being like this, and the answer to that question is simple. I have social anxiety.
Now, I can’t tell you why YOU might have it, what caused it, what specific things give you anxiety. But, I can give you one little tip my counsellor gave me. It is working for me at the minute, and although I am still working on it, I am sure it might help some of you. It is basically an exposure approach.
One of the things that sets off my anxiety, as I mentioned before, is ordering coffee or food at a café or restaurant. So my counsellor set me a little task. Every day, for a week, she asked me to go to a local café, and order a cup of coffee. But here is the trick. The first time, I should go at a very calm time, when it is not too busy, and order something simple, always remembering to practice my breathing exercises, and taking my time to order.
The next day, I should go when it is a little busier, and order something a little more complicated, until by the last day, I end up going on a busy hour, perhaps when there is a cue behind me, and order something slightly complicated, perhaps even two coffees (one for me and one for a friend), even asking for something that they blatantly do not have, so I learn to control my anxiety when the answer is no. She told me to always take my time, to breathe, and to remember that I am just as entitled to be there, as everyone else is. That I am entitled to take my time when I order, because people hesitate, people doubt, and if someone behind me is in a rush, it is not MY fault.
She told me that by carrying out these little exercises, I would be exposed to situations which would usually set off my levels of anxiety, and would get used to them, until they were at a level where I could easily control them.
It’s not much, but it has helped me a little, and it’s a technique that can be applied to many situations, so I hope it can also help a few of you guys. Dealing with anxiety is a difficult task,but little tricks like these can help make the climb a little easier.
Let me know how it goes!