Social Anxiety


Elizabeth Smith, Staff Writer

Social anxiety affects approximately 15 million adults in the U.S. alone and is the second most commonly diagnosed form of anxiety following specific phobias. The average age of onset for social anxiety is during the teenage years. People who have an overactive amygdala (which controls the fear response) may have a heightened fear response, causing intense anxiety during social situations. Some people may develop the condition after unpleasant or embarrassing social situations. 

In my experience, there is always a deep-rooted fear of being judged. Whether it is someone laughing in the distance or talking right behind me, I always think it’s negatively about me.  Some examples of what goes through my mind when that happens are:  “What if they are laughing at me?” or “ Why are they looking at me. Did I do something wrong? Is there something on my face?” 

Social anxiety affects us differently from “normal people” with anxiety. For example, going to a big party may seem like a weekend of fun to you, but to me it’s a buffet of potentially embarrassing moments and judgmental eyes. It can affect school and even get in the way of living your best life. Someone with social anxiety may tend to pass up on big opportunities that will benefit them in the future just because it could involve speaking in front of others. 

Creating a safe place is essential for someone of this mental state. Whether it is a mental or physically safe place, or even a person, it is very critical for their state of mind. Without it, someone may crumble under their thoughts or the pressure they put upon themselves.  My physically safe place is a small confined space with bunches of pillows so when I feel anxious or I’m having a panic attack, I feel like I am being hugged when my safe person isn’t there. My safe people are my sister, Courtney, and my friend Hannah, and my mental safe place is a quiet cottage deep in the woods far far away from people where I can tend to my garden and read with a cup of tea without the pressures of society crushing my chest.  

Dealing with someone panicking because of an overcrowded room or the fear of doing something in front of people can be quite easy if you know how to do it.  It varies from person-to-person, but ask if they want to be left alone or if they want you to stay to keep them calm. Either way, be patient, don’t get frustrated with their behavior, and offer medicine if they take any for these types of situations. Don’t make assumptions about what the person needs. Always ask. Speak to the person in short, simple sentences. Be predictable, don’t do anything that is too sudden, and help them slow their breathing if they start hyperventilating. 

A simple way to calm someone down is to ask them about their 5 senses:  5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you can taste.