What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety and fear. Social anxiety disorder typically begins in the teenage years, though it can sometimes start in younger children or in adults.

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If we consider the statistics, according to the National Institute of Mental Health social anxiety is more common among women than men, and approximately 12.1% of U.S. adults experience a social anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. That means that 12 adults in every hundred, struggle with social anxiety, and these numbers are growing every year.

So how can you tell if you’ve got social anxiety? Some of the symptoms are:

  1. avoiding social situations
  2. cancelling plans abruptly
  3. immense guilt when you cancel plans
  4. needing alcohol to face social situations
  5. feeling like you can’t participate
  6. dreading social situations
  7. dreading being outside your safe space (home)
  8. missing school or work due to anxiety
  9. worrying about perceptions of you
  10. overthinking things to say or do
  11. blushing or reddened face
  12. excessive sweating
  13. fast heartbeat when in social situations
  14. talking to strangers
  15. going on dates
  16. meeting new people
  17. making phone calls
  18. making eye contact
  19. using public restrooms
  20. isolating yourself
  21. dizziness in public
  22. muscle tension or twitches when social
  23. stomach trouble when social
  24. dry mouth or throat

At one time or another I’ve experienced many of these. Why? I believe it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors at play.

The good news is that social anxiety responds very well to medication management; at least for me it has.

If you experience these symptoms for a prolonged period of time, do yourself a favor and seek therapy. No one should have to suffer when there are treatments available to at least alleviate some of the symptoms.

Book review: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Delacorte Press, 2015

Fourteen-year-old British teen Audrey is making slow but steady progress dealing with her anxiety disorder, which she developed after a car accident and tremendously difficult bullying. This mysterious altercation(s) with the mean girls at her school has sent her deep into an anxiety spiral so her life has changed dramatically since she has been battling depression and anxiety disorders. She is now always wearing dark sunglasses, unable to leave the house, doesn’t attend school, and has an attack if she talks to anyone besides her family. Audrey records what goes on in her house since she has a very hard time going outside and the drama of her family. Her brother Linus’ friend comes into the picture, and her recovery gains momentum.

This YA romance novel with excellent dialogue was a witty and sassy quick read. It showed us the recovery from mental illness as opposed to the descent into it that many others reveal. Her dysfunctional family provided some comic relief, even though the author kept the mental illness topic gentler and more lightweight than other books on the same subject.

It was a lighthearted, limited angst, ofttimes humorous story about teen life, anxiety, first love, and family love that discussed mental health therapy techniques, but I’d have loved to hear more of the backstory that caused her the issues the book talks about.

Book review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Simon Pulse, 2018

This heartwarming, challenging novel about a girl, without her best friend, that can’t speak and a boy that can’t hear. Steffi has selective mutism and Rhys is deaf; but then the principal puts them together and Steffi crushes deeply. This novel is full of British Sign Language, which appears similar to ASL, starting with the inside of the cover we have the alphabet and the numbers, then every chapter number has its equivalent in the sign language. Even during the story there are lines that explain how to signs specific words in BSL like “thank you” or “I am sorry”. 

The backstory is full of complex families and relationships. She can express herself at 100% only to people she knows pretty well, and she is comfortable with her family or best friends. Tem, a daughter of refugees, who is the opposite of Steffi, is chatty and able to fill all the silence of Steffi. Tem never judges her best friend and never forces her to talk.

Steffi’s brain can pass from a good thing to a disaster quickly. No matter if she has any reason to think about something terrible, which leads to depression, and sometimes it’s really impossible to get out of it. “Panic attacks are a lot like being drunk in some ways, you lose self-control. You cry for seemingly no reason. You deal with the hangover long into the next day.”

Steffi comes from a loving, supportive family, has access to a good therapist, and has a trusted friend at work where Steffi communicates sometimes. This romantic character portrayal with racial diversity is a quick issue driven read. and is a relatable, perfect depiction of anxiety.

Book review: How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat

HarperTeen, 2017

How To Disappear protagonist, Vicky Decker, suffers from “absurd shyness,” “self-consciousness,” and introversion. The fun, rousing read starts with her friend Jenna, who kept her safe from social circumstances, moving away, leaving her utterly friendless and nearly agoraphobic. Vicky employs her savvy with digital media to craft the persona of the confident, socially adventurous person she’d like to be.

This depiction of yoyeuristic isolation of social media is a way to understand more the inner thoughts of people who are suffering from being judged or/and afraid of attention. When I read this book, the familiar feeling is not easy to approach because of the amount of uncomfortableness that the main character went through. Basically she is afraid of calling attention to herself and being laughed at and judged.

I really enjoyed this book because it is very relatable, since everyone has a moment in their life where they just want to disappear and not care about anything else. However, as you keep on reading, you’ll eventually find happiness when she finally feels a bit encouraged and connected with others. The novel had great characters, high drama, suspenseful chapters and its realistic fiction also seemed like a thriller.

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