Imagine feeling so uncomfortable in certain situations — sometimes at random — that you can’t breathe or even process what’s going on around you.
Welcome to the life of someone dealing with social anxiety.
For those who may not know, social anxiety is usually classified as an intense discomfort during social interactions or a fear of judgment by others. But the 15 million American men and women who experience the disorder know all too well that the struggle of the condition goes beyond just feeling awkward in social settings.
We asked our Facebook communities to share some of their pet peeves about the disorder. Below are just a few things people with social anxiety want others to know about their condition.
1. Social anxiety isn’t a choice.
“I wish people knew how badly I wish I could be like everybody else, and how hard it is to be affected by something that can bring me to my knees every single day.” –Kaitlyn Michaud via Facebook
2. They know it is hard for friends and family to understand it. “We know it’s irrational. We just need what we need to get through it.” –Elise Dickey via Facebook
3. They can’t just stop having social anxiety.
“Being told ‘get over it’ is the worst ever. You wouldn’t tell someone with a cold to get over it.” –Jackie Alvarez via Facebook
4. A little compassion goes a long way.
“I wish people understood just how debilitating it can be. I wish the people closest to us would read the links and information we provide them, to get a better understanding of what goes on in our brain. Understand that we’d rather text, than talk on the phone. Understand that we don’t refuse to do the ‘easiest’ things on purpose.” –Stacey Edder via Facebook
5. It isn’t something that’s “cured” quickly.
“[Social anxiety] makes me feel ‘stuck.’ I’ve been trying to get over it for years. I may be witty and seem confident but I’m trembling on the inside.” –Gina Carpenter via Facebook
6. It’s unpredictable.
“I wish people understood that social anxiety can come and go … and hit us out of nowhere too. Just because we have been known to be ‘the life of the party’ sometimes, does not mean that we don’t experience and struggle with social anxiety on a regular basis.” –Desiree Herron Perry via Facebook
7. Social anxiety is NOT the same thing as being shy.
“It’s not a shyness that will just temporarily go away. It’s an illness that keeps you from having a ‘normal and simple’ conversation with someone.” –Geleen Marie Friemel via Facebook
8. It isn’t just “all in their heads.”
“Anxiety stems from our brain which controls out body. It’s science. Our brains are different and respond to situations in a way we cannot help or change. It’s a physical reaction.” –Katy Connell VenderLoop via Facebook
9. There isn’t always an explanation for social anxiety.
“There isn’t always a reason for the feeling. There isn’t a trigger that sets it off in all cases. The fact that I get out of bed, do my day to day tasks and fall asleep is, most days, my ‘getting over it’ and coping.” –Jennifer Loffer via Facebook
10. They don’t need you to know everything about social anxiety to be supportive.
“I don’t need you to try to ‘understand,’ I don’t even understand it! I need you to love me and support me.” –Tiffany Robinson via Facebook
11. Sometimes it takes a while to prepare for a social gathering.
“I wish more people understood that it sometimes takes me several days to mentally prepare for a social gathering where I’m going to meet new people, and that if one of those times comes up on short notice, I don’t always come off as the friendliest person. It doesn’t mean that I’m mean, stuck-up, or rude, as it is often interpreted.” –Meredith Elyse Galyon via Facebook
12. They’d still appreciate an invite anyway.
“If I’m not going out with them, it’s because I feel much better at home. And even if most of the time I stay home because crowds are too much for me, I still want to be invited and included.” –Claire Salandie-Partiot via Facebook
13. You can be outspoken and still have social anxiety.
“I’m far from a timid person and just because I may be ‘ballsy’ that does not mean there isn’t a storm inside.” –Amber Amici-Walker via Facebook
14. It can be managed.
“It’s really not so bad if you learn healthy coping techniques. Things like deep breathing, positive thoughts, simply walking away in a tense situation or knowing what relaxes you. What works for me is a hot bubble bath or a good book.” –Crystal Renee Stasik via Facebook
15. It’s hard to meet new people.
“I have massive difficulty with meeting new people at an organized gathering. … Most people think I am super out going, but I overanalyze every conversation I have for hours. It is exhausting!” –Shannon Rodefer Lopez via Facebook
16. Everyone is different when it comes to socializing, simple as that.
“I have my way of dealing with situations and you have yours.” –Bailey Annan Sonday via Facebook