January 29, 2013 by Vicki
I suffer from mild social anxiety. What is social anxiety? Social anxiety is a fear of any social interaction with large groups of people. My social anxiety shows in an extreme reluctance to enter into any group situation larger than four people. I also am afraid of calling people on the phone. It doesn’t matter whether they are professionals or friends and family. Do you remember the feeling you used to get when you had to write a really difficult exam? That’s the feeling I have every time I enter a social situation.
I am lucky in that I have a group of friend with whom I can interact and not become anxious. However, even that group of friends can push me into anxiety depending on the conversation and tone of the group. My friends have described me as being a “prude”. When conversation occurs about sexual activity, I immediately become anxious. I have also become anxious when the discussion turns onto a subject I am passionate about. I have two reactions to these situations. Sometimes, I, mentally, remove myself from the group and stop interacting with anyone until the subject has past. My other reaction is to verbally attack whoever is discussing the topic until the subject is dropped. I am aware that this is a typical fight or flight reaction but it is not a reaction I can control.
I find all social interactions difficult and nerve-racking. To offset my reactions, I make safe-zones where I feel less likely to be anxious. My home is my primary safe-zone and that is why moving is such a huge issue for me. When I am in the process of moving; I feel as if I am taking down the barriers that protected me from the outside world. I know that this is illogical but it is how I react. When I was younger and travelling with my family, the first thing I would do is set up all of my stuff so that it felt like home. I remember disappearing for hours into my room at the cottage unpacking all of my stuffed animals and setting up my books on any available shelves. To me, safety is feeling at home. Home is partly created by stuff being organized and available.
I also try to create a safe-zone at my work. I have difficulty working in environments where I do not have a set location. For me, not having a designated workspace means that I cannot create my work space into a safe-zone. It also means that everyday I have to interact with a different group of people. I have literally broken down into tears from the stress created from not having a safe-zone at work.
Social anxiety affects every aspect of my life. From friendship to employment, it is a reality that I have to consider and sometimes can only react to. I know many other people suffer from the same anxiety and some have much more difficulty coping with their anxieties. I am lucky to have friends and family who support me as I try to find my way. I struggled about writing about my social anxiety on this blog for it does not affect every woman nor does it only affect women. I feel, however, that I must be honest in order for this blog to work. I also believe that women need to know that they are not alone in their anxieties. It can be difficult when you are the only one who fears other people. Friends say “they are only people” and think that this helps. The reality is we know that they are people and that’s what scares us the most. At the base of it, social anxiety is a fear of people.