My name is Tiffany; I’m 23 years old, a full-time college student, and I’ve been a sufferer of Social Anxiety Disorder for over 10 years. Social Anxiety Disorder is the most common anxiety disorder, and the third most common mental disorder. However, it seems to be one of least understood anxiety disorders in America. Sufferers of social anxiety are often afraid to get help either due to embarrassment or because the anxiety itself is stopping them from getting the help they need.
I’ve been extremely shy my entire life; however, I began to notice the symptoms of anxiety at the age of 14. I was attending a new school, surrounded by new people, and quite honestly, I felt strange; like I didn’t fit in. I found it extremely difficult to introduce myself to others and because of this I didn’t have any friends and spent my lunch hours in the school restroom. The social situations that had once made me feel uncomfortable, now caused me extreme fear. One day while at the public library I goggled “I’m afraid of people” and found information on Social Anxiety Disorder. While I hadn’t been officially diagnosed, I knew then that I had social phobia.
Whenever I was around people I felt as if they were judging me. If I heard people laughing, I thought they were laughing at me. It got the point where when I was outside I felt like people were staring at me from their windows, and cars. I felt like I was the center of everyone’s universe. Even doing simple tasks such as checking the mail was a huge challenge because I thought my neighbors would laugh at me and think I was a “loser” if there was no mail in the box. While in a social situation I experienced extreme fear. I would begin to sweat uncontrollably, I avoided eye contact at all costs, and all I could think about was removing myself from the situation. The thought of being around people made me feel nauseous. All I could think about was how they were going to judge me. Sometimes I would feel so sick from anticipatory anxiety that I would avoid going outside in order to make myself feel better.
I spent my teenage years being extremely depressed. In order to cope with my sadness I resorted to self-injury. I was extremely suicidal, and had often contemplated ways to end my life. I felt hopeless, like I was a waste of space on this earth. I felt like I couldn’t do something that should come naturally. My senior year of high school I told myself that I couldn’t do this anymore, and I attempted suicide. 24 hours later I found myself on an involuntary psychiatric hold. This is when I was officially diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder.
With the help of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) as well as Exposure Therapy, I’m finally at a stage in my life where I truly believe that I will completely overcome this disorder. This journey of mine isn’t over yet, but I’m getting there.
You can follow my journey here: www.youtube.com/user/tiffanyrp