Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Social Anxiety

Hi. My name is Kelsi and I suffer from social anxiety.

Yes, talking about my issues with social anxiety is uncomfortable and by presenting it here in my blog it makes me feel vulnerable. Talking about my struggle with alcohol and the nerves I felt opening up about that, compare to the nerves I am feeling now. For those of you who are lucky enough to not know what social anxiety is or how it feels, I will gladly help you understand. 

When I enter new social situations, such as going to a family gathering or a party of some kind, I immediately start panicking. For most people, giving a presentation or going on a date might cause a few butterflies, but for those of us with social anxiety, these situations bring a sense of panic. My thoughts usually go something like this: 

"Everyone is staring at me." 
"They can all notice how nervous I am." 
"I never have anything to add to the conversation." 
"I must not fit in.
"This nervous giggle is so lame." 
"What is wrong with me?!"

Before I know it, I am ready to leave before I even begin a conversation. This fear of social situations also begins to build before I even leave the house, which often makes me bail on plans last second. This is difficult for me to write about because I know these fears are irrational. My obsessive worse case scenario thoughts prevent me from enjoying my life and to be honest, it's starting to piss me off.


While I was actively participating in my eating disorder, I thought my social anxiety was all food related. If a social event had food, I knew it would make me uncomfortable to eat in front of others and that was my "perfect" excuse to isolate. Now that I am eating somewhat normally, however, that excuse no longer works. 

Right now my social anxiety feels worse than it ever has in my entire life and I think it's because I am finally being forced to deal with it. After crying in my therapist's office yesterday, I decided a certain social situation this week was too much to face and I resorted back to my old isolating ways. I really should know better than this by now. Isolation does not solve anything. Ever.

After doing a little reading on social anxiety, I found that it is most common among individuals with low self-esteem, poor assertiveness skills, negative self talk, and overly self critical thoughts. Being female and having a genetic predisposition to social anxiety can also increase its development. Other factors, such as upbringing, traumatic life experiences (e.g. bullying, abuse), and certain personality traits (e.g. shyness), can greatly impact social anxiety.

So, I am left questioning whether or not social anxiety is my fault and why it is so difficult to get over. Unfortunately, I would test positive for all of the risk factors listed above and many of those things are not my fault. Like many things in my life, in order for me to overcome my social anxiety, it is going to take a lot of time and patience, even if it is frustrating. My therapist says it's best to start slowly when beginning new social activities, so I will need to develop a starting point and over time work my way up.

For some reason, I think of my social anxiety as an ugly personality flaw and I would much rather avoid discussing it. However, there are serious consequences involved if I choose not to deal with it. Recovery from my eating disorder has opened my eyes to how bad my social anxiety really is and even though it's no fun to deal with, without recovery, I would not have this chance to work on it.

Progress.

19 comments:

  1. Kelsi, it takes guts to share this on your blog so congrats! I also suffer with social anxiety so I know how you are feeling. It easy to just cover it up and avoid all of the situations and feelings involved but where would that get us? I have been trying different breathing techniques to help me while I am in these social settings and they seem to work! You are brave girl! Keep up the awesome progress.

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    1. Thank you, Tayla! And thanks for sharing with me that you also struggle with social anxiety. It helps to know I am not alone. :) I have also tried different breathing techniques, but never seem to give them enough time and practice. My thoughts start taking over, which makes me mad, and I give up. So next time this happens, I have a breathing plan and will be able to handle it much better.

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    2. This is such an inspirational story to share...

      Christmas Thoughts 2015
      Luxury Christmas Baskets
      Sydney Fruit Baskets
      Newcastle Hampers

      Keep on keeping on, we're following you
      hugs,
      B

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  2. I have the anxiety too, A BIG TIME. What helps me is to be aware that I would not be comfortable with people, and accept it first. Then, see a little progress. For example, at least, I make myself to go. Even though I am not comfortable, I introduce myself. Even if it does not go well and I feel so shuttered, I say, "hey. I at least did that." Perfectionism goes along with this too. I might be awkward, but you know? People usually don't remember it... They move on to the next things in their lives. Progress, not perfection. And, give some credits to myself when I try. Then, sometimes, I don't go because my anxiety is away too high. That's ok too, as long as I keep trying. There is no right way or wrong way. It's not easy to do... but we try. xoxo

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    1. Yes, sometimes all we can do is try. More often than not, we are making progress even when we don't realize it. Thanks for you words of encouragement once again. I always feel less alone with your comments. :)

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  3. "How glorious the splendor of a human heart that trusts that it is loved." -Brennan Manning

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    1. What a great quote! Thanks for making me smile :)

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  4. I have it too - I think it is very common in people with eating disorders. For me I think social anxiety (and a bit of general anxious tendencies too) was a huge driving force in my ED. Thinking about weight/food comforted was a channel for me - it soothed and dulled the anxious thoughts that have been present most of my life long before my ED. When I socially isolated, I had that to entertain myself with so I didn't have to think about how lonely I was. When I got rid of my ED behaviors and obsessive thinking, the social and general anxiety was still there and probably even heightened. It's gotten slightly better over time as I've had to overcome more and more situations...really the only thing that makes it better is not avoiding, but avoiding makes you want to avoid even more - totally get that. Usually I dread social situations but feel better and proud of myself for sticking through it afterward. Also it helps me if i have time to mentally prepare for an event (for example, I need people to let me know if we are doing something at least a few days ahead of time - if you ask me to do something tonight, I will probably become very panicked and just say no automatically) I think it's an important topic, and I'm glad you featured it on your blog. I hope you can accept that it is nothing to be ashamed about. <3

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    1. Thanks Lindsay, for multiple things - Thanks for the tips on how to overcome social anxiety. I totally agree that avoidance makes everything worse, but for some reason in the short term is always seems like the solution. I guess it's time for me to learn from past mistakes. Also, thank you sharing your struggles with it. It's always nice to know I am not alone.

      I definitely think social anxiety is heightened after the ED behaviors have stopped and I didn't really realize that until just now. Like you said, there is nothing else to comfort myself with anymore, so I just have to sit with those negative feelings. Blah. It can only get better with time though, right? Thanks again! <3

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  5. Never be ashamed of something like this. You have simply fallen under its spell, but the good news with that is, spells can be broken.
    More people than you realize how social anxiety. In my immediate family alone 3 out of 6 of us have it, myself included. Yes it is bothersome, and it makes things hard, but it is "curable".
    Take me for example: last year at this time I wouldn't even speak to people I isolated so badly. I posted pictures on Facebook and wrote statuses so people knew I was alive, but I never spoke to anyone but my good friend Alex. Now, this year, I'm having a birthday party with my friends! I'm even considering having two, just because frankly, I can!
    A lot of people struggle with social anxiety; so don't be embarrassed about it, although that is easier said than done. I know.
    On the bright side, my prayer for you has remained the same: To figure things out, step by step, no matter how small of a step you take. This too will be figured out with time, patience, and progress, no matter how small or how big.
    I'm incredibly proud of you for opening up, letting yourself feel vulnerable and nervous, but sticking with it. You're already making progress!
    Love ya darlin'! Things do get better with it, you just won't notice it until you're having two birthday parties simply because you can. Xoxo

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    1. Kenzie, the amount of wisdom in your words is always ten million years beyond your age! Thank you SO much for this comment! I guess social anxiety does affect more people than I realize, thanks so much for pointing that out. I would have never guessed that you once struggled with it, so it gives me hope that you have overcome such a huge obstacle in a sort period of time. I'm listening to that song you sent me as I'm typing this.. Love you!

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    2. I'm glad I can help in a small way with the song. It's really just positive and made me think of you!
      Anything is possible my dear, anything! You will overcome this, too!
      Love ya!

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    3. It's on repeat now... haha. It's going to power me through this week! xoxo

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  6. You are quite brave. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

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  7. You're amazing!!! You can fight through this girl. I know you can overcome this and live a life of freedom(:

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    1. Just what I needed to hear tonight Miss Emily. Thank you! :)

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  8. Kelsi,

    I love the article. I'm very interested in Social Anxiety. I've written an article here on 5 ways to overcome it and would be really interested to know your thoughts from some who has experienced this to such a level
    http://www.positive-changes-hypnosis.com/5-ways-to-overcome-social-anxiety/
    All the Best
    Mark

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  9. Kelsi,

    I love the article. I'm very interested in Social Anxiety. I've written an article here on 5 ways to overcome it and would be really interested to know your thoughts from some who has experienced this to such a level
    http://www.positive-changes-hypnosis.com/5-ways-to-overcome-social-anxiety/
    All the Best
    Mark

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