I got a call from a lady friend of mine one early morning. After picking up the receiver, I immediately sensed her fright. In a slightly shivering voice, she told me that she felt nauseous and lightheaded right after she woke up. While crying, she told me that she was so dizzy that her room spinning in circles. I told her to calm down and wait for me to fetch her. After a few tense minutes, I finally arrived at her place and then rushed her to the nearest hospital. In the emergency room, the doctor gave her some medicines to help her calm down. She was discharged right away. I found out later that she was supposed to have her first big date with a guy that was introduced to her by her officemate. She told me that her anxiety began when “Mr. Right” appeared at the front door of the Italian restaurant where they were supposed to meet. She said that after seeing the guy, she hurriedly stood up and left the place using the back door. It was supposed to be her first real date. But somehow, she could not stand the thought of knowing what this guy would say about her hair, her dress, her teeth...her make-up...and a million other things about her.
While she looked fine to me, my friend actually saw herself as “wallflower”... a “Plain Jane” that would never attract anyone, much less have the interest of Mr. Right. In the taxi, she confessed to me that she felt really bad about the canceled date. She said that all her life, she felt embarrassed or uncomfortable in meeting new people. Just when she felt she was ready to step out and go out on a date... technically, she got stood up.
After hearing her story, I told myself, “We have a case here.” This “Plain Jane” is actually suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia. The basic feeling of social anxiety disorder is being very anxious in the presence of other people.
Research shows that social anxiety is the third leading psychological problem in the United States today. It is said that 15 million Americans are affected by this type of anxiety in any given year, and the majority of those affected are women. But unfortunately, unlike any other psychological problems, this disorder is not well understood by the general public. Sadly, people who suffer from this condition are sometimes labeled as “clinically depressed”, “maladjusted”, “schizophrenic”, and even “weirdo.”
Some degree of social anxiety is felt by most normal people. However, people with a social anxiety disorder are already so disturbed that even their word and daily routine is affected.
Before you panic and start running to your doctor like a mad animal to check if you too are suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder, try answering these questions:
Do you try to avoid social situations that may cause you to be very anxious or self- conscious?
- Have you ever had a panic attack before or during a social situation that you are afraid of as a result of your anxiety?
- Do you experience symptoms such as nausea, trembling, sweating or blushing before or during any kind of a “feared” situation
- Do you have an unusually intense fear of meeting new people or be in a situation where you don't know the people well?
- Does your fear of embarrassment has kept you from speaking in public?
- Do you worry for days or weeks ahead of time about an anticipated fearful situation?
- Do you constantly feel that you are being judged and watched by other people?
- Are you continually afraid of making mistakes in front of other people?
If your answers to the above questions are mostly “yes”, you may already have symptoms of social anxiety disorder. But know that you can still prevent this condition from interfering with your normal, everyday life.
This disorder is usually treated with therapy or medication or a combination of both. It is very important to seek proper treatment as soon as you found out that you have these symptoms so as not to make the situation worse. However, do not worry as research has already shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy works effectively in the treatment of social anxiety.
If you have a social anxiety disorder, the first step to take is to educate yourself about this condition. After getting information, make a decision that you will deal with this problem. Any delay or failure to get appropriate treatment for this condition can wreak emotional and psychological havoc that could scar for life.
If you are among the Plain Jane's who are still mum about your suffering and agony, it may now be time to come out in the open. Remember that there are people who understand and care for you. Aside from getting professional help, you can also join a social anxiety therapy group that can slowly but gradually help you with your social anxiety. There are a lot of therapy groups that are positive, supportive and encouraging out there...waiting for others like you to join them in their own journey towards anxiety-free living.
Always remember that social anxiety disorder can be conquered through proper treatment, support groups, and therapy. If you think that you are one of them, do not be afraid. Get out of your shell and take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.