Columns / Discourse / November 8, 2017

Dealing with social anxiety before and at Knox

For those who do not know, social anxiety is the fear of situations where one may have to interact with other people. It is also the fear of being judged in social situations. I was diagnosed with anxiety about six years ago, and I never thought I had social anxiety until I really thought about it in recent years. Yet, it is definitely a possibility and it has affected me for my whole life. College is not an exception.

When I was in high school, I always thought that I couldn’t interact with other people because of the reputation I made for myself throughout my 12 years of schooling in a small town. I figured that because I may have had messed up relationships in the past, people refused to interact with me.

Now I am realizing that I only did this to myself because of the thoughts that were constantly running through my head.

In college, you have the opportunity to transform your life almost completely into a new one. When I got here, I was excited to be able to start fresh. I would be able to talk to people without a reputation following behind me. I would be able to make some real friends and to have a solid support system. While I have found it easier to make friends and start anew, I still have a constant fear of talking to others.

When I first got here, I doubted my ability to speak until someone made me. I gained friends and a confidence in myself through the SPARK program, but as time continues, I find myself overthinking when I am in contact with a whole new group of people. I start thinking about every aspect that could be wrong or embarrassing about me until I find an “okay” answer, but still end up hating the words that come out of my mouth.

Social anxiety is a strong force in my life and in lives of many others around me. It alters my view of myself and on how people see me in everyday life. But why does one tiny aspect of my mind alter such a large portion of my well-being?

While I do not have an intense form of the illness, I still feel the same side effects of someone who is diagnosed. Those with diagnosed social anxiety often avoid social situations because of the fear of being viewed as stupid, visibly anxious or awkward. Once forced into a social situation, it is common for them to have a rapid heart rate, a blush, to stumble over words, to experience extreme distress. I know, for once I stumble over words when meeting new people, I find myself thinking about the interaction for days, or even weeks.

The mental illness is not something to take lightly. Such a diagnosis can affect a person for their whole life. It can put them at lower odds of receiving a sturdy job and put them at higher risks of experiencing chronic loneliness, which can damage your overall well-being.

Fortunately, there has been a rise in solutions over the past couple of years because of the great increase in teens who develop social anxiety. There are plenty of resources through the internet to go into depth on your own personal diagnosis. One of the more common “cures” to social anxiety is sending yourself into a situation where you know you will be uncomfortable. You go inside and talk to every single person and deal with the consequences. It is common for people to go into coffee shops and ask everyone for their number or if they want to go on a date, expecting a negative answer. This helps the person deal with failure and grow more comfortable with it.

While there may not be a “cure” that works to the fullest, it is worth a shot to try out different remedies to get yourself more out there. College is definitely challenging me every single day with the idea of socializing, but I know I have a support system and I can continue to live, even with social anxiety.

 

Sadie Cheney

Tags:  mental health mental illness social anxiety

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