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Reach Out: Thoughts on Social Anxiety

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Don’t mess up, don’t be an idiot, are your eyes twitching? Fix your posture, be careful not to let your arms look chubby, don’t say anything wrong. Watch what you say, be careful, don’t say anything stupid, should I shake her hand? She’ll never be your friend. You’re so stupid. Weirdo. Why are you so afraid? 


Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, impacting over 15 million adults. This disorder is the second most commonly diagnosed form of anxiety in the United States. Often times, social anxiety is bred from early years of trauma, which can range from constant verbal and physical bullying, humiliation in front of public crowds or other forms of abuse. 


Sometimes, it only takes months for someone to develop anxiety and most of the time it’s unconscious. However, it is very important to keep one thing in mind: Anyone can have social anxiety, no matter how minuscule their trauma may seem. I’m not going to lie, social anxiety is not something easy or natural to talk about with a lot of pride. Discussing what's going on with yourself internally always has the tendency to feel uncomfortable and wrong. With men, there's an even higher stigma around sharing your feelings. For that reason, victims often remain silent. In fact, most people don’t find out that they have social anxiety until later on in their lives, normally when they are transitioning into high school. Suddenly, students making this huge life transition have no idea how to exist in public without feeling extremely uncomfortable. 


I’ve come to realize that the stigma surrounding mental health is what prevents victims from defeating their stress and the problem at hand. Many people, especially teens, are unable to speak up and ask for help that is necessary to their mental health out of fear of rejection and/or embarrassment or being labeled as “melodramatic.”


The reality is, those who suffer from social anxiety are everywhere. Imagine, the girl who leaves early from the party to go home, the boy who barely says a word while struggling to interact within his friend group, the girl who spends most of her time in the bathroom to look at her appearance, debating with herself on whether or not she should leave. These are all examples of how social anxiety manifests in people. 


There are a number of reasons why someone would lose their self worth, their ability to coexist with people, to choose isolation over socialization. It isn’t easy to acknowledge that you need guidance, that you need help, especially when a person starts to convince themselves that they are an “introvert,” and refuse to deal with the problem at hand. Victims will blame their own personality, believing that if they deny what has happened to them, it won’t be a problem anymore. However, things won't just go away, but self-care and talking about what is going on is the first step.


We all deserve to be treated like we matter.  


As a student at Pratt Institute who has known several people in her life who have suffered, it is not easy to eliminate this illness alone.It requires teamwork, trust and faith, that if you reach out, you will not be shot down. Social anxiety can be managed if treated and handled properly with extreme amounts of care. If the student body unites and embraces one another, we can help diminish the symptoms of the illness through hospitality, rather than exclusivity. Because everyone deserves to feel included, to experience a trustworthy, genuine friendship, to be given the chance to make relationships that could potentially last them a lifetime.


Talk to your friends. 


Go to Health and Counseling or the Learning Access Center


Inform your professors about your circumstances. 


Get the care you need. 


You’ve survived. Now it’s time for you to enjoy this valid, imperative part of your life, to socialize with a clear mind and revel within your happiness. It’s never too late, so if you’re truly feeling alone in this battle, if you feel lost, reach out. Be heard.



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Illustration by Oliver Buika

written by
Alexandra Adams
October 9, 2019