Caring For Social Anxiety

Lately, I’ve been deeply compassionate for people with social anxiety, and for the past traumas they may be carrying around inside themselves. Sometimes they feel that isolation is the only choice. This is only one facet of social anxiety, but it’s the one I’ll be writing about.

The Reality of Being Alone

Fear of rejection is central to social anxiety. Rejection occurs on many level, and the general belief seems to be that those with social anxiety take this ‘too seriously’. We’ve heard it: ‘get some thick skin, move on, it’s part of life’ and so on. The ‘part of life’ makes it even more frightening. One with social anxiety may think:

”Will people never understand me?”
” How does it feel to be in a relationship?”
” I want to be  myself, but.. [Insert reason here]”

Naturally, having social anxiety may also stem from depression or vice – versa. Some with social anxiety have physiological reactions in their bodies when facing social situations. This may include nausea, sweating, shivering etc. However, not having these symptoms does not mean that the anxiety is less severe. It may be viewed as such, but we know that the big bad is a certain aspect of us: The Mind which repeatedly conjures of memories and associations that trigger these patterns.

Some with social anxiety and depression isolate themselves. Perhaps they’ve tried everything they thought they could, or maybe they realized that ‘getting some thick skin’ didn’t work and they believe that avoidance is the solution. 
They keep to themselves at work, at school and even at home. They want to have friends and be in a relationship, but they can’t bring themselves to take that step. They walk outside with hunched shoulders to hide themselves. This has a profound impact on their self – esteem and self – confidence. Yet, being alone is comfortable.

”It’s better this way. Now I can’t hurt anyone anymore” – Guilt.
” I work better by myself anyway” – Justification.
” I only sabotage my relationships anyway” - Affirmation.

You get used to it. You’re depressed, you’re lonely, but you’re used to it. At least it’s safe. It still hurts, of course it does, when you see two people talking with each other or when you see that couple on the beach. You realize you’ve never been in love. You don’t have any idea on what romantic love feels like and this hurts you even more, because you know you’ll never get the chance. At the same time, what’s the big deal? You know you’re not the only one.

Every day, you remember something. It’s not always where you last left it, much like your car keys. Something you did, something you said, something that was said to you… and it was your fault. You’re  not sure if you deserve the pity you’re giving yourself. You know that it’s self – destructive in the long run and you really should just get on with your life. Perhaps grab a snack or two, just to fill the void…

”You’ve gained some weight,” someone comments. You know this inside, but you deny it. They begin suggesting eating and exercising differently. You know they’re right, too. The food just tastes so good.

New Beginnings Turning Into New Hells

You’re nervous but excited. It’s your new job, or your new school. And it’s your first day! You smile to yourself. New beginnings are always good. You chat with everyone. They seem to like you. Then you go home, proud and happy with yourself.
In the following weeks, you start to notice something. Signs. Signs that are not good. You’ve seen them before and then you realize it’s starting all over again. ”I’m not that interesting to talk to,” you whisper to yourself. ”It’s only natural that they don’t find me interesting when I’m not the same,” you continue to affirm. You smile as you pass them by. They smile back.

And you know that’s as far as you’ll ever get.

You’ve had thoughts of ending it. Your life, you mean. Inside, you’re aware that you want to live but you’re incapable of changing your situations. Therapy didn’t help you, nor did ‘tough love’ talks with your family. Even they don’t seem to believe in you anymore. The ones you’ve contacted for help, the strangers, either close the doors when they hear too much (That’s OK, they have their own life and all that) or try to give suggestions. When you respond back, they express their concern but tell you that if ‘you can’t even do these small things…’.  That gets you down. A lot. Add on that, you’re failing in other areas of life. No money, no friends, no love, no understanding, no success, no belief in yourself.

Now, you only wait for death. The only thing you have to do is drift through life while you try to survive. At least you’ll be alive.

It’s not as easy as it seems to be.


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18 responses to Caring For Social Anxiety

  1. Sol,
    I’ve never experienced social anxiety quite this deeply. I sometimes fear walking into a room of complete strangers though. What you’re writing about goes much deeper though. It seems like a deep sense of being an outsider and alone. If a person feels this bad and seeing a therapist doesn’t help, nor does medication, I would think the person needs to be hospitalized.
    Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition recently posted..Face Your Fear and Do it AnywayMy Profile

    • You do have a point, Angela.

      I did also get the impression of being an outsider and alone. That’s why I also felt compelled to write about it. No one deserves to feel that way. I don’t know about medication or therapy, but I’ve personally experienced states similar to the one hypothetical person I’m describing in the article (hence the insight). It is different for everyone, however, and that’s why it’s so hard to offer help. One may have been ingrained from childhood that ‘hospitals are bad’ for example, and reject the notion that they could be helped by being hospitalized.
      It’s really sad and hard to write about, and there’s a lot of different opinions.
      Thanks for your comment. It’s valued.

  2. I had some pretty intense social anxiety growing up. It wasn’t as deep as this article, but it was deep at its worst.

    Fast-forward 10 or so years, and I’ve been able to come out from it and develop a big social circle and lots of relationship opportunities.

    The only thing that was holding me back all those years was my mind. For whatever reason, I was born with a mind that’s more prone to silly thoughts and anxieties that most. It wasn’t until I learned to control that mind that I started seeing improvements.

    If you haven’t heard of it, look up a book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. in the book he teaches us that we aren’t our thoughts or emotions – that they are only conditioned and can be changed.

    The techniques in the book, combined with meditation, really turned my life around. It’s like the person I always knew I could be – that person than I had – was able to come out finally.

    If you want to talk about this in more detail still free to e-mail me. Just use the contact form on my site.

    I think a lot of people can relate to this article, so I want to thank you on their behalf (and mine) for writing it.

    Take care,
    Fred Tracy recently posted..Opinions Are Like Assholes (Especially from Strangers)My Profile

    • Hi there, Fred!
      Thanks for visiting!

      Indeed, the mind IS the killer here. I am an intellectual, however, so my mind tends to run the show in a lot of cases. That way, I kind of end up justifying and/or analyzing my anxiety.
      I possess the Power of Now book, but haven’t read it yet. I know that thoughts and emotions can be changed and conditions, which is why I use a few self help programs. Too early to say anything (I’m sure you saw that coming), but no risk, no reward hmm?

      Thank you for your support and have fun!

  3. Hello Sol,
    I have read many many books on the human body and how it controls perception.

    All oddities and bizarre behaviors of humans is caused by an over-active reptilian brain. The reptilian brain or R complex’s main job is to keep you alive and safe.

    Social anxiety is genetically passed on from parents to children.

    Reading the comments I can see that everyone has dealt with social anxiety before.

    I believe this is the reason why so many people resort to drinking alcohol in social situations. It calms and chills out the reptilian brain.

    So once we can understand the cause (reptilian brain) and learn ways to keep the reptilian brain in check, we will feel in control of ourselves.

    I wrote a post on the reptilian brain on my blog. I am happy to be reading another post from you. :)
    Justin | Mazzastick recently posted..Fighting Stagnancy and Ambivalence: The Struggles of a Modern Twenty-SomethingMy Profile

    • I gotta agree with Justin here.

      In certain situations where I still tend to experience a lot of anxiety, it’s almost like I can feel my stupid reptilian brain overreacting to the situation.

      It can make a pleasant situation incredibly uncomfortable. My dad’s the same way I believe, so it also seems genetic.

      Sol, were your parents also social anxiety sufferers?
      Fred Tracy recently posted..Opinions Are Like Assholes (Especially from Strangers)My Profile

      • Sol

        Hi there, Justin!

        I know about the reptilian brain. I’ve read about it myself. It’s actually connected to the shadow self which I will be writing about but haven’t gotten the time. Damn the internet.

        Hmm.. I know that my dad suffers from anxiety, though of a different kind. I don’t know about my mother, sadly.

        Anyway, thanks to both of you for commenting!
        Sol recently posted..Personifications: An Indepth RecapMy Profile

  4. Hi Sol,

    Wow, what a powerful piece. I’ve had anxiety as well (who hasn’t), as well as depression. Not as bad as what you described, but enough to understand it. The problem is that when you’re in that space, you can’t really access the shiny happy thoughts. So when people tell you to just snap out of it, or to try to push through it, that doesn’t seem possible.
    For me, when I’m in a really dark place, which doesn’t really happen anymore, but I remember it all too well, I try to find one thing that feel s just a little bit better, no matter how ridiculous, and I latch onto it for dear life. It may be the one person I know will always love me. Or focusing on a dog (they’re so great for making us feel better), or a silly TV show, or whatever. As long as it feels a bit better. And then, I find the next better feeling thought, and I latch onto that. These may not be happy thoughts, but they feel better than where I am. I think of it as finding hand holds and pulling myself up out of the pit of despair. The key is not to judge the thoughts. For example, “I hate the freaking world” may feel better to you than “I hate myself and I’m worthless”. But if you stop yourself from thinking it, because it’s not a happy shiny thought and you don’t think you should be focusing on that, you’ll stop yourself from feeling better. But you can’t get to the shiny thoughts until you move through the next layers from wherever you are…

    Thanks for the thought provoking read.

    Melody | Deliberate Receiving recently posted..Using The Law of Attraction To Get Over A BreakupMy Profile

    • Hi there, Melody!

      Wow, that’s a long comment.
      Thanks for all the suggestions. I do appreciate them! I think it’s really important not to beat yourself up over having negative thoughts, yes. Or judge them.
      Anyway, thanks for visiting!

  5. Joey

    Well written article, those psychologists have quite the challenge because the patients have a hard time just accepting help to start with.

    This is going to sound pretty out of the box but I’ve discovered a technique for getting rid of nagging negative thoughts:

    1. Write down an affirmation that you want to focus on such as “I am free from feelings of social anxiety”

    2. Get a ruler or even a stick

    3. Hold the stick in front of you about arms length away

    4. Blink your eyes rapidly and at the same time move the stick back and forth with your eyes focused on the stick

    5. Repeat to yourself the affirmation at least 20 times

    Once you do that it’s going to take about 2-3 days for your nagging thoughts to come to consciousness. It’s not going to be fun at first because it’s going to bring painful memories but it’s important that you acknowledge them and think about them and analyze the situations as much as possible. Once you finally bring your issues up to front you’ll feel great in that you won’t have them anymore.

    It’s kind of like throwing up, sure, it’s not fun before throwing up and not a great time hunched over the toilet. But afterwards you’ll feel fantastic.

    I used this technique myself to deal with annoying thoughts about when I lost my job over 10 years ago. Yes, you would think I’d finally get over it but the nagging thoughts just kept showing up. Through the above steps I was able to finally deal with the issue head on and bam I feel great!

    What do you have to lose right?

  6. Hi Sol:

    It really is about genetics. One is playing out the genetic timeline of their ancestry. Patterns are held in the DNA and past lives. What also is the hardest thing to work on this lifetime, is usually the one that one needs to conquer to have the success one wants in this life.

    – Wendy
    Wendy recently posted..1 Man, 1 Year, 52 JobsMy Profile

    • Hi Wendy!

      An interesting take on this indeed. I think you’re right! Conquering those feelings and fears that hold you back is really what one ‘wants’ to do to achieve personal freedom. Too bad we usually don’t want to face our fears.

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Hey Sol. I don’t think that I ever suffered from social anxiety as you described, but I know that I am an introvert and can be shy in social situations. I did find it hard to maintain conversations, and felt as if I was different from every one else, but these days I am a lot more confident.

    Lots of meditation and self help work on my part has me in a much better place now, but I feel that I still have a long way to go yet.
    Andrew | Self Help Products recently posted..How To Find Love Again After DivorceMy Profile

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