I don’t think I’m the only one who’s come across people who think social anxiety is just someone’s excuse to be shy. If you’re one of these people, I just want to politely burst your bubble. No, I am not shy. If you start a conversation with me and ask me interesting questions, I could go on for hours talking. I’ll even ask you questions and want to get to know you. I am not shy. I have social anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder is described as, “A chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety.” Not everyone who suffers from social anxiety is the same. But personally, I struggle with simply asking someone for help in a store. When I went to college, I was terrified to use my meal plan for a good week after I got there, afraid it wouldn’t work and I would be embarrassed. I’m afraid to ask people to repeat themselves when I can’t hear them, so I’ll just smile and pretend I understand. I’m afraid to do anything I’m not completely confident that I can do, out of fear that I’ll be judged.
Honestly, I could see why someone could get being shy and having social anxiety confused. No, I don’t like talking and introducing myself to new people. I don’t like trying new things without a friend. I honestly don’t like doing anything without having at least one person around that I can talk to and lean on if I need them.
Yes, there are similarities between the two. But I’m tired of hearing people say, “Oh she’s just shy.” No I’m not just shy. I have an actual mental health condition that makes me terrified to be in unfamiliar or uncomfortable social situations. People don’t understand that this condition affects me mentally and physically. When I’m uncomfortable or anxious, my heart rate shoots through the roof and it becomes harder to breath. I’m actually struggling. I’m not shy, I’m suffering.
For me, one of the worst parts about having social anxiety is having friends that don’t. When all of my friends and I went off to college, their response to almost everything I said to them was, “Go make friends.” I can’t blame them for not understanding my entire situation, and I still love them to death, but it’s frustrating that no one seemed to understand that going out and making friends was terrifying to me. I would never want my loved ones to suffer. I just wish they would be able to understand what I have to go through.
As I said before, not everyone who suffers, suffers the same. So I absolutely can not speak for everyone. But if I could make even one person feel like they’re not alone, I’d be happy. Just think before you speak the next time you assume someone’s just shy. They could actually be suffering.