What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is an extreme fear of people. I’ve had it for years and years.

It frequently gets confused with agoraphobia, but it’s not the same thing. Social anxiety or phobia is a fear of social situations and contact with people, whereas agoraphobia is a fear of being in a place you cannot escape from, like a confined space. It’s different.

Cases of social phobia vary greatly in severity. Some people only have a mild case. They have a fear of people and social interaction, but are able to go out and function reasonably normally.

At the other end of the spectrum come those who can barely get out of bed or leave their room. They are petrified, even of the neighbours and are unable to function normally. They have extreme difficulty interacting with people at all, unless they absolutely have to, or unless it’s someone they know really well, like family. I fall into this latter category.

let me out

Recluse

For years, I have mostly been confined to my room and bed. Although I do usually manage to get up, showered and dressed each day, I am basically a recluse, apart from my daily trip out in my mother’s car, usually to go running or cycling.

Exercising, alone in the forest, is practically my only pleasure and reason to live, apart from my family and cat of course. I never go into shops or the like, or talk to anyone, unless I absolutely have to, like a doctor.

My mum and brother do all my shopping and stuff for me. I cannot function in society. This is the reality of severe social phobia. It is an extremely debilitating condition, an extreme kind of disability.

Reactions from non-sufferers

Non-sufferers often don’t comprehend the seriousness of these issues. For the first few years, I had many a heated discussion, explaining the situation to various family members.

Unless someone has a condition themselves, they need a lot of persuading to genuinely understand it. Eventually my family began to understand and empathise, and it’s been that way for years now, but it did cause plenty of issues early on.

Not the only one!

It’s important for us to comprehend that there are lots of people with this, or a similar condition. I used to feel like I was the only one, that there was something extremely unusual about me. I was odd, and everyone else was normal. It took me years to realise that there are many people in my kind of situation. I wasn’t some kind of freak, but just a person with a mental illness. I just needed help.

Nearly everyone has some kind of physical or psychological issue, at some time in their lives. Very few people get through life completely unaffected by any health issues whatsoever. It’s just that we have extreme shyness and fear. It’s an illness, like any other.

Hope!

For years, I have been afraid. I thought I could never recover and get a life. But there is always a light, a way out.

At the end of the day, no matter whatever anyone else does to us, or whatever crap we have to put up with in life, we control what we are and what we become, nobody else. It’s just whether we choose to learn and make the change.

With treatment, we absolutely can make vast improvements in our lives. We must have belief and be strong guys. We can do this!