Healthy Living

Dealing With The Social Anxiety Struggle

Have you ever felt like a shadow walking amongst the masses? I have. And if I’m being completely honest, those are the times when I feel most at peace. The times when you’re on your own and nobody acknowledges you are the most freeing and less vulnerable times. But when is this feeling considered too much? Is there such a thing as too much alone time? Yes. Yes, there is. And one way of knowing when you’ve gone too long without any personal connection or interaction, is when you start questioning whether your separation from the rest of the world is somehow affecting your ability to function as a regular human being.

I thought about this at great length recently since I’ve been stuck in a rut for the past few weeks. I’ve been struggling to put myself out there and find the motivation to do normal, everyday things. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve missed so many classes these past few weeks that my vacuous thinking is now preventing me from going back to class from fear of people questioning or judging me. This is only a small fraction of my fears being pushed against the more important thoughts in my head. And it’s working.

I recently attended orientation for my new job and I found myself sitting in my car, thinking about leaving before going in. This type of thinking scares me to the point that I am constantly questioning whether I will be able to find and maintain a partner and a meaningful relationship, which is something many people with this type of thinking desire, including myself. So, what can I do to change the way I think and the way I react?

I honestly don’t have a specific answer to this question.

I end up breathing heavily and having extreme heart palpitations while trying to act like a regular person in front of people or even before an event that I know will cause these types of thoughts. Many people who know me and whom I confided in with this problem, do not necessarily understand where I’m coming from, even when they try their hardest to. This leaves me with more worries because I don’t have a support system that I can count on when the feeling is more prevalent, which in my case, has been pretty often and steady in the past few weeks.

I decided to do some research to see how I could potentially take the initiative as I sit behind a computer screen and behind a smartphone, and compiled a small list of things I can do to make myself less self-conscious and avoid those pesky feelings of wanting to be alone because of fear of judgement and big crowds:

1. Talk to a professional:

Some people might scoff at this one, but it’s truly one of those things that really does help, even when you’re skeptical of its results. Do some research online for therapists or counselors that specialize in anxiety disorders, some even specialize specifically on social anxiety and social issues in general. If you’re concerned about the price and/or you’re low on money, check to see if they accept insurances or if they have payment plans available. For college students, most universities offer free counseling sessions per academic year (mine offers 12 sessions) if you decide to opt out of their insurance. If you payed for your university’s insurance, your school might offer unlimited counseling sessions (like mine does).

2. Join a support group:

This is another one of those you might scoff at, but hear me out. It’s often said that people who share experiences with others who go through the same thing, benefit from their commonality. It’s almost like seeing a counselor or therapist, because you share these things with the other person and they understand and relate to you. If you find someone who struggles with the same issues, you can take the opportunity to lift each other up and motivate each other into doing things you wouldn’t normally do by yourself. Like going out to the mall, or watching a movie, or even someone you have a class with. Having someone who understands you by your side can make a huge difference.

3. Write about it:

It might seem cliché or cheesy, but writing about your feelings really does help. Whenever I find myself in a rut, like I am right now, I can write about it and feel better within minutes. As I type this, I already feel like I can conquer these fears by applying some of these things I’m currently writing about, which I hopefully will. So start a blog, or write an article and send it out to a magazine to have it published, maybe start a conversation on social media. Put your ideas out there and try to find others that relate. If you can communicate your feelings through writing, then you’re one step closer to figuring out how to manage them as well.

I will be going to seek counseling at my university and I will also join a group in hopes of finding someone I can share these types of feelings with. If I can at least make myself feel better by writing this post, then I will continue to do so, and it if helps someone else out there, then it’s totally worth it. I hope this will give me that extra push of encouragement I’ve been needing and perhaps it’ll help me acknowledge my thought-processing when it comes to social anxiety and my desire to be alone.