I was checking my Facebook notifications for work and decided to have a quick squiz at the news feed. One photo sent a wave of emotions through me. It was of a girl from high school having a merry time sharing drinks with someone I used to work with.
What were they doing together? How did they meet? Why had I never been able to connect with many girls at school? Why had I never been out for drinks with that lovely ex-work colleague? At 35, why am I troubled by this?
Oh. That’s right. I have social anxiety. And I’m not alone.
Anxiety Disorders affect one in seven* Australians each year. There are several different types of Anxiety Disorders including Social Anxiety, Panic, Post Traumatic Stress and Obsessive Compulsive.
There are three common symptoms of anxiety:
- Unhelpful thoughts;
- Physical symptoms; and,
- Changes in behavior.
It took me until I was in my late 20s to recognise my symptoms were more than just worry or characteristics of introversion. My symptoms:
- I would over-stress about doing or saying the wrong thing;
- Sweaty palms, flushed face and stomach churning; and,
- Picking my fingernails until they bled.
I dealt with my ‘worry’ with red wine – and lots of it. This behavior sabotaged potential networking contacts, friendships or being invited to things in the future. As we all know, we’re not the same person when inebriated and slurring boring stories to the sober people around us.
How I’ve learned to deal with it:
I’ve learned to deal with my social anxiety in the following ways:
- Getting to know myself better and explore what makes me happy;
- Realising that I’m not the only one in the room feeling anxious;
- Opening up to friends and family about my anxiety; and,
- Undertaking mood improving activities – like exercise and watching funny movies.
I have been lucky to make friends who’ve gotten to know me, and I them, and life-long bonds were forged.
So when I am disheartened by all the socially-capable people on Facebook I know now that all I need do is to switch it off and call up one of my friends to be reminded that life isn’t social media.
If you feel you have anxiety issues there are many online resources:
BeyondBlue – Support and advice for depression and anxiety
MindSpot – online assessment and treatment for anxiety and depression
Have you experienced an anxiety disorder? Have you any tips to share?
*Clinical and statistical information for this article was sourced from mindspot.org.au, a clinic funded by the Australian Government.