This post is by Sophie from Girl vs. World.
The Reality of Social Anxiety
You’re waiting to board the plane. All the adrenaline has been building up for days now. You know deep down you’ll be fine as you’re in the safest hands possible, but something in the back of your mind is eating away at you. What if something malfunctions? What if the plane crashes? What if someone dangerous boards the plane – How will you escape in mid air? That’s it, you’ll have to create an escape plan. You’ll have to plan thoroughly how you will protect yourself if something is to go wrong. Oh no… They’re getting ready to allow you to board the plane now. You feel as if you’re walking to your death. You text all your family to say you love them just in case something is to go wrong. You KNOW it won’t – but your brain is telling you otherwise.
Sound illogical to you? Yeah. That’s because anxiety is illogical.
Now imagine that plane phobia is directed towards social situations: Every time you leave the house you have a million thoughts racing through your head about what might go wrong. You can’t walk down the road to the corner shop on your lonesome in case someone follows you and kills you. Even worse, what if someone runs you over and paralyses you? The sounds of the cars surrounding you are like to be overwhelming, what if this causes you to have a panic attack? What if you just… forget how to walk? Okay.. That last one is a bit much, but I have to say I sometimes forget how to put one foot in front of the other when my anxiety freezes my whole body. Yeah, not cool.
When someone has social anxiety, their brain functions differently to ‘normal’ peoples. Everyday, seemingly simple tasks are terrifying. Every conversation you can possibly think of having throughout the day with people is rehearsed over and over to ensure no mistakes are made, because the thought of saying something wrong is HUMILIATING.
Sound tiring? That’s because it is.
Unsurprisingly, constantly second guessing every single action you make and word you say is exhausting. Social anxiety can cause you to become so run down and tired you become physically ill. Interestingly, an individual experiencing a panic attack is often mistaken by medical professionals to be having a heart attack. That’s how fast a person’s heart can beat when they’re experiencing a panic attack.
Panic attacks are debilitating, humiliating, and confusing… They’re torture.
The room is spinning, your head is foggy, and your heart is pumping out your chest to the point you’re concerned it may fail on you. Oh, that’s another thing to worry about. As if you’re not panicking enough to the point anxiety is taking over your every being, you’re now panicking the anxiety is going to cause you to have a heart attack. It really is hell on earth.
After reading what social anxiety is really like, it may be easier to understand why it’s common for people suffering with this condition to hide away inside and isolate themselves from the world. I can’t count on one hand the amount of times I’ve cancelled plans and made excuses not to see people, just out of fear of having a panic attack. Out of fear of having to walk alone to meet my friends/reach my destination. Then the fear kicks in that people are going to hate you for being flaky. As frustrating as it is, non-sufferers (understandably) find it hard to understand what’s so scary about socialising.
That’s why posts like these are important.
If you know someone who is suffering from social anxiety, please try to be understanding. Let them know it’s okay if they don’t feel up to going for drinks. Reassure them it’s not their fault – they simply have an illness they cannot control. Trust me, NO-ONE wants this illness.
You can find Sophie on her blog Girl vs. World.