As some of you may know, social anxiety can be crippling. It’s a confusing thing to those who have never suffered it and it makes the outside world struggle to understand what’s happening behind the walls of our mind. I was diagnosed with social anxiety when I was 15 after suffering for most of my life. I struggled immensely in school and had panic attacks before, during and after school. The thought of going to school gave me really bad stomach cramps and I’d often make up excuses to mum to keep me off school but there was only so many things I could say before it became obvious!
I was always quite shy as a child and no one thought it was anything more than just being a little quiet but as I got older we realised it was something more. I always found it hard even being in a small classroom of 20 kids. When I found out being socially anxious was a thing, I felt relieved that I wasn’t ‘crazy’! but that still didn’t mean others around me understood.
I suffered agoraphobia a short while ago and have slipped into it every so often mildly due to my intense social anxiety and overall anxiety. It’s hard for others to understand as it seems silly to some that people can be anxious about being social. The truth is, you can’t understand it unless you have experienced it.
I have gone to leave my house in the past and broke down at the door step and had to go back in only to cancel all plans I had due to extreme anxiety with going out and being social. Trying to explain to people why you can’t make an event seems impossible as to them, anxiety may not be a good enough excuse and this is where it can be a really lonely place for those struggling.
Covid 19 and Social anxiety
With the current pandemic forcing us to be at home, some may think it is paradise for those who struggle with agoraphobia and social anxiety but the truth is it really isn’t. Not having the option to leave the house does not make things easier at all. It can make things harder and can actually increase the anxiety further as you feel no obligation to push yourself to try and leave the house. This Covid19 situation is definitely going to cause an increase in paranoia, anxiety and mental health overall.
Social anxiety sufferers who live with others will most certainly find some things difficult as for lots of us, we are often around those in our household a lot more than usual so things can become claustrophobic, crowded, cluttered and just causes increased anxiety and immense change.
Personally I lived with my partner and mother during Lockdown one and usually due to working from home I awas alone every day during the week until around 5pm. This really impacted me as I spent over a month with mum and Lewis being home every hour of the day meaning my routine changed and I was distracted a lot more. I love being around my partner but due to not being used to it I found it hard to find a routine around things. Working is usually done on my own so having people around me makes me lose concentration.
During the second and now current third lockdown, I am used to it. Mum was made redundant, Lewis is going to work due to being a key worker and we now have three extra people home. It’s become the new normal and I have adapted to it, but it’s still difficult. No doubt about that.
Social anxiety with video and telephone contact
A lot of people find it really bizarre when I say about anxiety over video chat and calls. It’s not something easy to understand when you haven’t experienced it and from an outside perspective it can seem silly but I assure you it’s a real thing and I personally struggle immensely with it. I actually prefer to have a conversation and meeting face to face than over video chat or phone call.
Don’t get me wrong I have video conference calls on Zoom with my work and it is wonderful but the thought of it festers and causes really bad anxiety. I find it easier to do work meetings online as there is an agenda and a structure whereas with a general social catchup on video call causes me terrible nerves. I did one quiz night with some friends and family which was nice and my household did it all together so the anxiety was lessened but I still got so anxious beforehand worrying about how I looked.
After the quiz I was convinced I may have done something or said something wrong and was questioning my partner making sure I hadn’t annoyed anyone and it’s exactly what I do after social gatherings usually. I’m always on edge about if I upset anyone by doing or saying something.
A lot of people find it hard to believe that even in the comfort of your own home you can still struggle with social anxiety but it is very real and is more common than you may think.
Social anxiety is different for each individual and we all struggle in our own ways. Some people will find certain things easier than others such as video chat and phone calls being a breeze whereas others like me are the complete opposite! Try to keep an open mind about your family and friends when they appear to be struggling. They could be fighting an internal battle that they are scared of explaining to people for fear of judgment. Social anxiety can be crippling and not being understand makes things harder.
Do your best & reach out should you need anyone!