Like most mental disorders, social anxiety can alter your perception of reality, yourself and others.
As a result, social situations make you feel extremely uncomfortable and sometimes even panicked. Whatever involves the interaction with other people, from making a phone call to saying ‘hi’ to your neighbors, scares you like hell. So, you end up avoiding any situations in which you have to deal with other human beings.
Did you know that there are almost 15 million people suffering from social anxiety worldwide and this disorder is the third largest mental health issue in the United States? Even despite this, many misunderstand social anxiety and its sufferers, confusing it for shyness or being a snob. Well, like it usually happens, people are too fast to judge before they even try to understand.
Sometimes, it can be really difficult to explain what it is like to live with social anxiety to ‘normal’ people even if they know you better than anyone, like your loved ones or family members. “How can a simple phone call make you so nervous?” they ask, or “Stop acting like a freak, they’re not gonna bite you,” etc. How to make them see that you can’t simply stop?
Like it often goes with mental disorders, the problem arises from the subconscious mind and you can’t easily control it. Usually having its roots in the childhood experiences, social anxiety makes you feel that people will judge you and laugh at you whatever you do. This deep fear of being judged and rejected is what causes those disturbing feelings of anxiety and nervousness, sometimes even leading to physiological symptoms like trembling and sweating.
To make ‘normal’ people better understand what social anxiety is and how it feels to live with this disorder, the artist Shea Strauss has created a hilarious comic titled Reality Versus Social Anxiety.
The comic depicts six common situations and the differences between the reality and the way socially anxious people perceive them. If you can relate to social anxiety, I bet that most of these will remind you of yourself.
Image credit: College Humor