“Would people notice my nervousness? Would I say something dumb?”
I realized I suffered from social anxiety early in college. While I was always shy in class and preferred to avoid public speaking as a child, I never thought I was any different than anyone else. When I began college, I started to realize that I acted very differently around people that I knew well and strangers. I think my friends and family would describe me as very outgoing, some would even describe me as an extrovert. When I’m with a group of people I know well, I don’t mind being the center of attention. At the very least I feel very comfortable if someone asked me to do a speech in front of family or friends; I’d jump at the chance.
I started to notice a major gap between my interaction with those close to me and strangers when I started college. I dreaded the first day of class, especially in small classes where we would introduce ourselves. As we went around the room, my anxiety would grow. What would I say? Would people notice my nervousness? Would I say something dumb? As soon as we received our syllabus for a class, I would look through it to find how much participation or presentations counted as a part of the grade. I just wanted a class where we would take exams or write papers, I wanted to avoid presentations at all costs.
I began taking anti-depressants during my senior year of college. Initially it provided me with the relief I needed. I felt more willing to meet more people, and most importantly, I was ready to attack presentations in my classes. My final year in college went smoother than the previous 3 years; I met more people and really enjoyed myself throughout. I finally felt like my true self.
After starting work, I noticed that much of the anxiety I used to have when doing presentations returned. Over the next few years, I went back and forth between using the anti-depressants and not. There would always be a trigger (almost always related to public speaking) that would send me back to them.
I finally decided to address the problem head-on rather than just use medicine to provide a temporary band-aid. I found Social Anxiety Help online and decided to try out CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy). From the moment I began therapy, I knew that CBT could be life-changing. Simply talking to someone about this secret that I was hiding from my closest friends and most of my family gave me a feeling of freedom.
I met individually with Larry every two weeks, and during each meeting we would set up tasks for me carry out over the next few weeks. Carrying out these tasks took a lot of courage but I saw immediate results. Practicing mindfulness while attacking each of the tasks brought me the most relief I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Before I knew it, I was making presentations and speaking in front of my entire company.
While there’s still work for me to do, I now know how to approach situations that may cause anxiety with a logical, effective approach.
Do you have a personal story of learning to overcome your social anxiety you wish to share?
If you are a former client of an NSAC-affiliated clinic or clinician, we welcome you to share your story if you believe doing so will be helpful for you. Sharing your story—or not doing so—will have no impact whatsoever on any future services you may seek from any NSAC-affiliated clinic or clinician.
You may put your story in writing, audio recording, or video. Discuss any of the following: how social anxiety affected your life; what you learned in therapy that was most helpful for you in lessening your social anxiety; how your life has changed as a result of your work.
NSAC reserves the right to decide which stories will be posted or not based on how helpful we believe they will be to other consumers. NSAC also reserves the right to edit for length and clarity, but we will get your approval on any changes before posting your story. All stories will be posted anonymously. Once posted, you retain the right to have the story removed from our website at any time.
Photo by Evgeni Dinev. freefigitalphotos.net.